"The Physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in the rubbing" said Hippocrates in the 5th century B.C. In fact, the health benefits of massage were known about long before Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, considered them.
We human beings have instinctively known about the healing power of touch - there can't be many children who have not experienced an adult "rubbing it better" when they have bumped themselves or fallen over. Physiotherapy has it's roots in massage. We evolved from the Society of Trained Masseuses, set up in 1894 by four nurses to protect the practice of massage from association with other, less seemly, activities. Massage became one of the three core skills of Physiotherapy along with exercise and electrotherapy.
Massage is often thought of as a luxury associated with exotic spas but it still has a role to play in healthcare. Massage is used to reduce stress, to reduce pain and promote healing. We asked Chartered Physiotherapist and qualified massage specialist, Zanna Hilton, what she thought of massage.
What is massage therapy?
During a massage session the therapist will loosen the body's soft tissues - muscles, tendons and skin - using their fingers, hands and sometimes elbows to achieve that aim. This may be to loosen particularly tight muscles, for instance at the neck and shoulders to relieve tension headaches, or it may concentrate on leg muscles to promote recovery after a race. There are different massage techniques that can be used to achieve different aims.
What are the health benefits
Massage can be used to relieve tension in your muscles so most people associate massage with relaxation.
It can reduce stress and anxiety and make you feel better as it encourages the body to release endorphins - natural chemicals which reduce pain and help us feel better. Research studies have suggested that massage will reduce anxiety, will reduce pain, can enhance the immune system and in sport, can reduce muscle soreness and help you recover after exercise. As we train to get fitter our muscles will gain strength and generally become tighter. Massage can help maintain flexibility and prevent injury.
Are there any risks involved?
Massage is safe as long as it is carried out by a trained therapist. The background of a Chartered Physiotherapist in anatomy and clinical reasoning means that they can assess whether massage is the most appropriate treatment for you. There are a few conditions where massage may be contraindicated. All treatment options will be discussed with you prior to massage.
What can be expected during a massage session?
Firstly a brief chat to find out what the client wants to achieve from the session, whether they have any underlying health problems or injuries before determining if massage is appropriate. The client will then be left in privacy to disrobe and lie on the massage bed. All care is taken to protect modesty and all body areas are covered with clothes or towels except the area to be massaged. McNaughton Physiogrange uses a range of massage wax from New Zealand - TUI wax - which is organic beeswax and may be fragranced. A hypoallergenic massage oil will be used if the client has sensitive skin.
How long is a session?
Massage sessions can last for 30, 45 or 60 minutes depending on the aim of the session and how much of the body is included. A 30 minute session may just cover the head and neck whereas the whole body will take 60 minutes.
I can't lie down - can I still benefit from massage?
Massage in sitting can be very beneficial. I have a support where you can lean forward comfortably for neck and upper back massage.
Hippocrates knew the benefit of "rubbing" but there is so much more to massage than just that. As Zanna has explained, it will encourage relaxation and make you feel better - ideal to help you manage stress and anxiety. It is also a useful tool in the treatment of health problems including headaches, back pain, and fibromyalgia. Massage can also help sports men and women achieve their sporting goals. If you feel that you would benefit from massage but would like more information, please contact the clinic direct by phone or e-mail. If you feel that massage may benefit a friend or colleague, we have gift certificates available for Christmas, birthdays or other special occasions.
This article was written by the McNaughton Physiogrange Team and first appeared in the December 2009 edition of the 702 Gazette