A Study on Massage Therapy

Massage therapy spans a wide variety of therapeutic approaches, working to improve an individual’s health and well being through the hands on manipulation of soft muscles and other soft tissues of the body. There are three key benefits to massage therapy; physical, mental and emotional. The first states that massage therapy is designed to stretch and loosen muscles to improve the blood flow and the movement of lymph throughout the body, facilitate the removal of metabolic wastes resulting from exercise or inactivity, and increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to cells and tissue. In addition massage stimulates the release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killer) into the brain and the nervous system. The second states that massage therapy provides a relaxed state of alertness, reduces mental stress and enhances capacity for calm thinking and creativity. The last states that massage therapy satisfies the need for caring and nurturing touch, creates a feeling of well being and reduces anxiety levels. People throughout the lifecycle from the very young and very old to those in between have all found that therapeutic massage has been highly beneficial to their lives in some way. In the following report the types of massage will be defined and explained as well as a more in depth explanation on the benefits of therapeutic massage.

While there are a wide variety of forms of massage therapy and bodywork, all with their own theological or philosophical perspectives there are certain basic principals they all tend to hold in common.

Perhaps the most basic principal in this field is that improved blood circulation is beneficial for virtually all health conditions. Tension in the muscles and other soft tissues can impair circulation, resulting in deficient supply of nutrients and inadequate removal of wastes or toxins from the tissue of the body. This intern can lead to illness, structural and functional problems, or slower healing.

Movement of Lymphatic Fluid The lymph system is almost as extensive as that of the blood. The circulation of lymphatic fluids plays a key role in ridding the body of wastes, toxins, and pathogens. The lymph system also benefits from massage, particularly in conditions where lymphatic flow is impaired by injury or surgery.

Release of Toxins Chronic tension or trauma of the soft tissues of the body can result in the buildup of toxics by products of normal metabolism. Hands on techniques help move the toxins through the body’s normal pathways of release and elimination.

Chronic muscular tension as a result of high stress lifestyles, trauma or injury can accumulate and impair the body’s structure and function. Psychological well-being is also affected. Release of tension allows greater relaxation, which has important physiological and physiological benefits.

The muscle skeletal structure of the body affects function and function affects structure. Both can be adversely altered by stress or trauma. Massage therapy and bodywork can help restore healthy structure and function, thereby allowing better circulation, greater ease of movement, wider range of movement, more flexibility, and the release of chronic patterns of tension.

All bodily systems are affected by better circulation and more harmonious functioning of soft tissue and musculature. Internal organ systems as well as the nervous system, the immune system, and other systems can benefit. There can be an overall improvement in the quality of life and physical health.

Mind/Body Integration Mind and body have a reciprocal relationship. Soma(body)affects psyche(mind)and vice versa. Hence there can be somatopsychic effects, in which psychological or emotional conditions affect the body. Change in one domain may cause change in the other. A habit of fixed pattern in one may also impede change in the other and require special attention. Often psychotherapy and massage or bodywork complement each other.

Stress in increasingly believed to induce illness, and perhaps 80 to 90 percent of all disease is stress induced. Massage therapy is an affective non drug method for reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

Many modalities in this tradition work with the flow of energy through the body as a means to promote healing. Energy can be directed or encouraged to move through and around the body in such ways to have an impact on the physical structure and function of the body as well as an emotional well being. This work may involve hands on contactor may be done with no contact with the physical body

Therapeutic massage methods used today have both Eastern and Western origins. The first written records of massage date back 3000 years to early Chinese folk medicine and ancient Ayurvedic medicine of India. Shiatsu acupressure and reflexology spring form these Eastern sources, as do other contemporary methods.

Western civilizations were introduces to therapeutic massage by Greek and Roman physicians. Modern western massage is created primarily to Peter Heinreik Ling, a 19th century Swedish athlete. His approach, which combines hands on techniques with active movements, became known as Swedish massage, which is still one of the most commonly used methods in the Western world.

The era of modern massage began to develop in the early 19th century, when a wide variety of practitioners were advocating massage and developing their own systems. The most important of these writers was Pehr Henrik Ling, a Swedish physiologist and gymnastics instructor. Because of his nationality, Ling’s system became commonly known as Swedish massage, and he became known as both the father of Swedish massage and the father of physical therapy.

The most widely known, prescribed and utilized system of massage therapy in the United States is the Swedish system. There are five basic massage strokes or movements used to administer Swedish massage: effleurage, petrissage, friction, atonement and vibration. In addition to the five to the five fundamentals to Swedish strokes and their variations, numerous ancillary or supplementary, movements have emerged over the past few decades. Swedish and Western massage styles now include basic touch, nerve strokes, compression and trigger point work, stretching and Swedish gymnastics.

Centuries after Hippo crates, Chinese medicine made its way to Japan and with it came the art of massage. But unlike the full spectrum of treatment practiced in Chinese medicine, massage soon became viewed as pleasurable indulgence for the wealthy. But there were those practitioners who stuck to the old, more holistic ways of healing. A segment of this group branched out and named this form of massage shiatsu.

Shiatsu is finger, forearm, elbow and foot pressure and stimulation to certain points on the body, and includes rotation and stretching of joints. This pressure frees any blockage in what is a normal route of energy as it moves from organ to organ throughout the body and balances the ki, which means life force, in Japanese.

Foot reflexogy is based on the theory that the entire body including organs, glands and body parts have reflex points located on the feet. Through applied pressure, one can release blockages around the corresponding body part and rebalance the entire body. One may think of the foot as a scanner screen recording body function. Disease in the body will manifest itself on feet. Stimulating a reflex point can balance the body when it had drifted from a state of health.

The reflexes of the feet are actually reflections of the body parts. Reflex locations and relationships to each other to follow a logical anatomical pattern that resembles that of the body itself. Glancing at a reflexology chart, imagine that you are laying the feet alongside the body, with the toes next to the head.

Reflexology offers deep relaxation, and relaxation is the first step toward physiological and physiological normalization. Since stress is a frequent reality for most of the clients, reflexology never accomplishes anything more than combating stress with relaxation, it serves humanity well. However, for those who practice reflexogy the benefits go far beyond relaxation.

One of the reasons reflexology is so favored over other forms of massage is that there is no undressing and no problems with towels and oils. This massage can be practiced virtually everywhere that is comfortable for both the fractioned and the client.

During the study of massage therapy, one discovers that applying massage movements is much more than placing hands on the body, manipulating skin, muscle and fascia. Skillful application of massage strokes is a blend of the hand movements themselves and the body’s mechanics, as well as pressure and depth, excursion, rhythm and continuity, speed, duration and sequence. These elements effect not only the body’s response to massage therapy but also the intensity of the response.

Webster’s dictionary defines intension as a “clearly formulated plan of action.” All the other elements in the application of massage are dependant upon the intention of the massage therapist. This intention is generally based upon the needs the client has stated. As the therapist begins to palpate the tissues and administer the massage, the objective finding of the therapist are taken into account altering the application. A general intention may be to give the client a stress reduction or relaxation massage.

Depth is the spatial distance into the bodies tissue that is received between pressure application. The therapist can control the amount of pressure exerted on the tissues, but the client often controls how much depth is achieved due to the amount of conscious or unconscious muscular relaxation.

Pressure is the application of force exerted by the massage therapist on the client’s body. Usually therapist utilizes their own hands, elbows or forearms to apply pressure. However, handheld tools can be used as well. Most massage tools are made up of wood, rubber, glass and stone. S a tool is used to apply pressure, it must be disinfected between sessions. The amount of pressure that a therapist uses will also depend upon the following elements:

-The condition of the tissue prior to the application of the massage stroke

-The massage stroke the therapist is using

-The area on the body where the pressure is being applied

-The purpose or intent of the massage stroke

-The response of the client during the application of pressure


Excursion is the distance traversed on the client’s body or the length of the massage stroke. Once the therapist has applied the desired pressure of a stroke, the next consideration is how far across the skin the movement should go. The therapist decides if the massage movement will cover the length of the muscle, the area of the tissue restricted, or the topographical region.


-Speed is also consideration when contemplating rhythm and continuity. Speed refers to the rate of motion. The therapist determine the speed based on the purpose of the massage. Some general rules apply:

- If the massage moves are too fast, the client will not be able to track the movement across the skin.

- Massage strokes delivered to quickly may alarm the client and cause a tensioning reaction. Fast massage movements may also cause fatigue for the client.

- If the rate of the hand speed is to fast, the therapist cannot palpate and assess the soft tissues of the body

- Massage moves that are too slow may prevent the therapist from distinguishing ischemic tissue

-Rhythm and Continuity

An ordered repetition of strong and weak elements in the delivery of the massage strokes is rhythm. Rhythm is affected by excursion, speed and pressure. The basic rhythm of a massage should fit your client’s needs. The most favorable rhythm for massage depends on the intent of the massage: a slower, more fluid technique is relaxing. The concept of continuity in massage refers to the uninterrupted succession or flow of strokes and to the unbroken transition from one stroke to the next. It is more difficult for the client to relax when the massage lacks a smooth rhythm and continuity.


The length of time one spends on an area, or duration, may be difficult to determine. There are psychological components that affect duration, such as achieving a release in tight tissues.


A sequence is a succession of strokes. In a Swedish massage, the sequence is physiologically designed to increase circulation of blood and lymph by applying strokes to proximal areas first and then proceeding to the more distal areas: the strokes also progress from superficial to deep. The various strokes are not random but are specifically sequenced in order to prevent repetitive motion or injury to the therapist and to create physiological effect’s within the clients body.


The union of these elements, along with how the therapist’s body is positioned in space, results in a routine, which can be further broken down into its various massage movements, depending on the style of the massage. The delivery of these strokes may be adjusted through the use of pressure, depth, excursion, rhythm, continuity, duration and speed.

The perception of massage as something questionable has changed dramatically with the increase of well trained, licensed and certified massage therapy professionals. The public demand is driving the trend as the benefits of therapeutic massage are validated and become well known. In conclusion and as one would have found in this report massage therapy or body work is not only a service that feels good, however, it is also something that is beneficial for ones health mind and spirit.

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