Today, we are going to take a walk back in time, massage time, to provide some definitions and give a historical perspective.
The word massage is thought to be derived from several sources. The Latin root Massa and the Greek roots of massing or mass mean to touch, handle, squeeze, or knead. The French verb maser also means to knead. The Arabic root mass or mass’s and the Sanskrit root make translate as “press softly.”
The word massage has its roots in the concerns of touch and the various applications of touch. We must differentiate the therapeutic values of touch in the professional sense from forms of touch shared between people in life circumstances outside the professional environment.
Therefore, Professional touch is: skilled touch delivered to achieve a specific outcome and the recipient in some way reimburses the professional for the service.
The Professional, a massage therapist, providing the service is skilled- schooled, has formal training- and operates within a certain standard of practice, including technical application and ethical conduct.
What is healing: it is the restoration of well-being and therapeutic applications that promote a healing environment.
So what is touch: Anatomically and physiologically touch is the collection of tactile sensations that arise from sensory stimulation, primarily of the skin but also touches deeper structures of the body, such as the muscles.
The skin is an amazing organ. It is the largest sensory organ of the body. Many internal soft tissue structures- such as muscles, connective tissue; and visceral structures-such as heart, lungs and other organs; project sensations to the skin. Pain is one such sensation.
The autonomic nervous system, which regulates organs and chemical homeostasis- balance- of the body is highly responsive to touch of the skin in supporting well being.
Our mood- the way we feel, is often reflected in the skin as we; flush with excitement, blush with embarrassment and pale with fear.
We must be touched to survive. Touch is a hunger that must be fed, not just for well being, but as the very essence of our survival. Research supports the belief that touch in a structured way is very important if not an absolute need of all living beings.
Research is done with premature babies when touched regularly, they grow faster and are healthier. Research is currently being expanded to include elderly persons, people currently well but under stress and ill persons.
Touch often is the concrete experience of more abstract sensations. For example, something that can be seen may not be necessarily real, as in the case of watching a movie, but when something can be touched, it is tangible.
I can listen to a client tell me their history, and I can look and observe during a physical assessment, but it is not until I touch clients and feel them that I begin to understand their bodies.
In a reciprocal sense, when I lay my hands on a person’s body, the understanding that I, as a practitioner, have receives from the client is conveyed back to the client. Touch is a fundamental, multi-layered and powerful form of communication.
History of Massage:
Massage has always been one of the most natural and instinctive means of relieving pain and discomfort. When you have pain or have sore, aching muscles, the instinctive impulse is to touch and rub that part of the body to obtain relief. Mothers rub children’s ouewee’s and kiss to make better.
Therapeutic massage has strong roots in Chinese folk medicine, but also has many aspects in common with other healing traditions. It is believed that the art of massage was first mentioned in writing about 2000BC and is has been written about extensively in books since 500 BC. Egyptian, Persian and Japanese historical medical literature are full of references to massage. The Greek physician Hippocrates advocated massage and gymnastic exercise. Is’nt he the father of modern medicine?
Hippocrates was the first to describe specifically the medical benefits of anointing and massage. He called his art; “anatripsis” which means to rub up. He said; “A physician must be acquainted with many things and assuredly with anatripsis, for things that have the same name have not always the same effect, for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose or loosen a joint that is too hard.” This is what sets me apart from other massage therapists, I can feel the difference, and I know what your body requires bind or loosening.
Many techniques similar to those methods, especially traction and stretching principals are still in use today.
Brief Timeline: 2000 B.C. The art of massage was first mentioned in writing. 460-377 B.C Hippocrates ofCos lived. He was the first in Greek medicine to describe the medical benefits of anointing and massage specifically. 589-617 A.D Knowledge of massage and its applications were already well established in medicine at the time of the Sui Dynasty. 1517-1590 Ambrose Pare began to use massage techniques for joint stiffness and wound healing after surgery. 1776-1839 Per Henrik Ling is given credit for the development of Swedish massage. 1839-1909 Dr. Johann Mezher of Holland is given credit for bringing massage to the scientific community. 1856 Charles Fayette Taylor and George Henry Taylor, two brothers, introduce the Swedish Movements to the United States. 1894 The Society of Trained Masseuses is formed. 1916 Dr. James B. Mennell divides the effect of massage into two categories: mechanical and reflex actions. 1920’s Connective tissue massage is developed by Elizabeth Dicke and Lymph drainage is developed by Emil and Estrid Voder. 1934 Reich settled in the United States and is considered by many to be the founder of psychotherapeutic body techniques. Late 1940’s Cyriax published the first edition of Textbook of Orthopedic Medicine. 1960 President John F. Kennedy begins interest in sports massage. 1970 Acupressure receives attention. 1980 The professional organization Associated Bodywork and Massage is formed. 1991 The Touch Research Institute is created, and The National Institute of Health establishes the Office of Alternative Medicine. 1995-present The available information about therapeutic massage continues to increase.
Scientific research has provided validation for massage and continues to define the physical effects of therapeutic massage.
Massages therapeutic value is gained from changes in soft tissue and structure rather than from surgery or pharmaceuticals. Changes in soft tissue range from softening of the muscle to increased range of motion, to name a few, the benefits of massage is for another presentation.
So what is massage, some can be found in the following definition of Therapeutic massage: The scientific art and system of assessment of and manual application of certain techniques to the superficial soft tissue of skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and facia and the structures that lie within the superficial tissues. The hand, foot, knee, elbow, arm, and forearm are used for the systematic external application of touch, stroking, (effleurage), friction, vibration, percussion, kneading (petrissage), stretching, compression, or passive and active joint movements within the normal physiologic range of motion. Massage includes the adjunctive external application of water, heat, cold to establish and maintain good physical condition and health by normalizing and improving muscle tone, promoting relaxation, stimulating circulation, and producing therapeutic effects on the respiratory and nervous systems and the subtle interactions among all body systems. These intended effects are accomplished environment that respects the client's self-determined outcome for the session.
So you can see that massage has a long history and a history based on medicine. That massage therapist is trained professionals, and adhere to high professional standards of practice, technical application, and code of ethics. Massage is steeped in physical touch, not only for well being but for survival. Massages therapeutic value is gained from changes in the soft tissue and body’s structure. Massage is a mix of art and science, one that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. It is highly professional and personal, touching all aspect of the human, truly integrating mind, body, spirit.