Massage therapy is the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for the purpose of normalizing those tissues and consists of manual techniques that include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, and/or causing movement of or to the body.
Massage therapy is one of the oldest health care practices known to history. References to massage are found in Chinese medical texts more than 4,000 years old. Massage has been advocated in Western health care practices at least since the time of Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine.” In the fourth century b.c. Hippocrates wrote, “The physician must be acquainted with many things and assuredly with rubbing” (the ancient Greek term for massage was rubbing).
The roots of modern, scientific massage therapy go back to Per Henrik Ling (1776–1839), a Swede, who developed an integrated system consisting of massage and active and passive exercises. Ling established the Royal Central Gymnastic Institute in Sweden in 1813 to teach his methods.
Modern, scientific massage therapy was introduced in the United States in the 1850s by two New Yorkphysicians, brothers George and Charles Taylor, who had studied in Sweden. The first clinics for massage therapy in the United States were opened by two Swedish physicians after the Civil Warperiod. Doctor Baron Nils Posse operated the Posse Institute in Boston and Doctor Hartwig Nissen opened the Swedish Health Institute near the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Although there were periods when massage fell out of favor, in the 1960s it made a comeback in a different way as a tool for relaxation , communication, and alternative healing. Today, massage is one of the most popular healing modalities. It is used by conventional, as well as alternative, medical communities and is now covered by some health insurance plans.
Generally, massage is known to affect the circulation of blood and the flow of blood and lymph, reduce muscular tension or flaccidity, affect the nervous system through stimulation or sedation, and enhance tissue healing. These effects provide a number of benefits:
- reduction of muscle tension and stiffness
- relief of muscle spasms
- greater flexibility and range of motion
- increase of the ease and efficiency of movement
- relief of stress and aide of relaxation
- promotion of deeper and easier breathing
- improvement of the circulation of blood and movement of lymph
- relief of tension-related conditions, such as headaches and eyestrain
- promotion of faster healing of soft tissue injuries, such as pulled muscles and sprained ligaments, and reduction in pain and swelling related to such injuries
- reduction in the formation of excessive scar tissue following soft tissue injuries
- enhancement in the health and nourishment of skin
- improvement in posture through changing tension patterns that affect posture
- reduction in stress and an excellent stress management tool
- creation of a feeling of well-being
- reduction in levels of anxiety
- increase in awareness of the mind-body connection
- promotion of a relaxed state of mental awareness