A massage may not just be cosmetic but actually have therapeutic benefits if done right and can actually help treat certain health issues too.
Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading the body while manipulating the soft tissues to reduce pain and increase relaxation amongst the other factors. The initial written massage therapy traditions were originated from India, but the practice of massaging would’ve actually originated earlier.
The origin of the word Massage goes back to the 19th century and is a derivation of the French word Masser meaning to knead/treat with kneading. However, it has been used since times immemorial both for curative and rejuvenative purposes from the ancient era. It works on the principles of stretch and pressure used in a synchronized and rhythmic approach. Massage therapies are seen between 3000 and 2500 BC. Egyptians created alternative therapies during this time. Over the centuries, Greeks and Romans made use of natural herbs and aromatic oils in combination with massage techniques to treat multiple medical conditions and was also used as a beauty treatment for better skin. Benefits of massage therapy are traced back approximately 2700 BC. Chinese massage states that disorders and sickness increases due to a low form of energy or disorganization in the body system. Massage techniques were developed in early 1800 in Sweden. A well-known Swedish physician developed “Swedish Gymnastic Movement System”, a technique which includes stroking, pressing, squeezing and striking to treat physical issues and help relieve pain from the body. Ayurveda in India uses a combination of meditation, medicine, relaxation through massage and aromatherapy in the process of healing. There are other oriental massages too like the Balinese that reflects on freeing up and untangling knots from the body or the Thai healing ritual of Lu Pra Kob that uses herbal hot compress to relax and heal the muscles. Originating from the quaint Himalayan kingdom – the ritual of Doshto too is deeply rejuvenating.
Evolution of Massage
Massage therapy, considered as a healing ritual practiced since ancient times, was however used for relaxation only. It then started getting momentum as a medicinal practice when the benefits were observed. “In ancient times, the ritual was reserved for the wealthy. However later it started getting momentum once it’s use in relieving of war injuries and muscle atrophy was realized. Now Massage is not only considered a simple relaxing technique but a therapeutic regime which can be used to relieve stress or help cure an illness,” says Aishwarya Sawarna Nir, Founder, Global Beauty Secrets. Pritesh Sawant, Spa Manager, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel & Lakeside Chalet – Mumbai, Marriott Executive Apartments says, “from acupuncture in China and reflexology in Egypt to deep tissue massage in Greece, massage therapy has come a long way. Massage is considered as a sacred natural healing of the body which helps in reducing pain and preventing illnesses. Where the cause of massage therapy remains the same, the advancement and integration of science and technology in conventional massages will lift and enhance the benefits for a patient. One such example of the modern massage therapy are massage chairs.”
You will find a variety of massages in the market, dedicated to different types of body parts and the relaxation response like Aromatherapy, Deep tissue massage, Hot stone massage, Reflexology, Trigger point massage etc. “But the most common and sought therapies are the Swedish massage and Shiatsu, a Japanese style of massage. Swedish massage involves long gliding strokes to increase blood circulation towards the heart whereas Shiatsu massage involves rhythmic movement from one pressure point of the body to another. Swedish massage is a great remedy for the rehabilitation of muscle injuries whereas Shiatsu helps in reducing stress and alleviate fatigue,” says Dr. Janmejay Shekhawat, Physiotherapist & Chiropractor, Reset Bangalore. Chair massages is best for people who want to get a quick massage that focuses on the neck, shoulders, and back. This type of massage also helps to relieve stress and allows you to relax with light to medium pressure. Deep tissue massage uses different patterns of strokes and deep finger pressure than a Swedish massage. It is an ideal therapy option if you have chronic muscles or soreness. Trigger point massage or pressure point massage can help in reducing chronic pains. Lymphatic massage helps to improve the circulation of the lymph fluid throughout the lymphatic system of the body.
There are various types of massage techniques each varying in rhythm, repetition, pressure depending on the surface area and contour of the body part being aimed for therapy, Efflurage (Stroking both light and deep), Kneading (Petrissage) and manipulations including Hacking, Clapping, Beating, Pounding, Vibration and Percussions. “Massage, which uses sensory stimulation basically touch for stimulating the receptors works by enhancing the blood flow causing a vasodilation effect in the lumen of the blood vessels causing a gush of fresh, warm and good blood to flow in the parts that have been targeted and promotes the cleansing of waste metabolites and pain substances which had been accumulated as a result of pain and spasm in a particular soft tissue,” says Dr. Heena Ram Khemani, Physiotherapist, AXIS Hospital Mumbai. Dr. Priyanka Sampat, Head Doctor, Birla Ayurveda adds, “when oil is massaged on the body for a particular duration the oil accordingly reaches deeper layers (dhatu levels). The medicines in the oil show their action by absorption mechanism. The oil with its medicinal properties is absorbed and converted by bhrajak pitta to pachak pitta in the skin and then to all dhatus and organs in the body. When the medicine reaches with the help of oil to particular dhatu it subsides the disease of that particular dhatu. Also, skin is the largest organ of the body hence keeping it oiled should be followed as a daily routine.”
According to NCCIH Research, a variety of massages and their techniques have been recognized in preventing and treating fibromyalgia and other disorders. In healthcare industry, especially in nursing homes and orthopedic clinics massages are a part of the patient’s healthcare regime or can be as a whole be a treatment program in several cases. Doctors have also prescribed medical massages in various illnesses. Medical massage can also be used to help assist in treatment and recovery from a disease, injury, or pain resulting from chronic conditions. While primarily, massage is used for wellness therapy, over time it has found increasing acceptance in healthcare as well. For a number of health conditions such as headaches, body aches, osteoarthritis, digestive ailments, and others, massage therapy is now being prescribed as a form of alternative healing. “Massage therapy is being used to alleviate associated symptoms of stress and as part of the overall healthcare plans for patients. Cancer patients are being prescribed massage therapy to relieve anxiety, stress, depression, and fatigue which manifests as accompanying symptoms (NCCIH). In pain management, massage therapy has been integrated as one of the rehabilitation practices in order to rejuvenate the muscles and tissues and also relax the body to alleviate pain. Massage therapy has been found extremely effective in relieving the symptoms and for pain management of fibromyalgia, a condition in which the patient experiences widespread musculoskeletal pain,” says Dr. Pawan Khatana, Physiotherapist, Motherland Hospital. Shipra Sharma, Co – Founder, Director, Tattva Spa. David Lloyd Clubs Talwalkars (DLT Clubs) adds, “massage therapies have been part of the traditional Indian construct of physical and mental well being based on the principles of Ayurveda. This ancient science is becoming more relevant in today’s hectic lifestyles with limited physical activity and desk jobs. Reflexology, for example, is a very popular massage technique which works on specific reflex points and alleviates aches and pains.”
From Acupuncture from China to Modern massage therapy found in Sweden, massage as therapy has evolved in different parts of the world. Thanks to globalization and culture exchanges, modern massage therapy offers a mix of ancient therapies and modern solutions. “Some of the studies have shown that massages have been helpful in preventing anxiety, headaches, sports injuries, and other kinds of pains and medical treatments. There are over 80 types of massages that help soft tissue relax and increase the flow of blood in the body. Each of the massage therapies is used to relax the tissue improving the functioning of the overall body. These are some of the common massages practiced today for healing purposes,” says Praveshh Gaur, Founder-Director, Srauta Wellness. Deep sense of relaxation leads to reduced stress and increased levels of serotonin, which is a chemical in the body that positively affects emotions and thoughts. “Your sense of smell is the most primitive of your senses. A lot of massages use aromatherapy oils that have aromatic molecules that are volatile, meaning that they become gases and spread quickly. Aromas can trigger emotional and even physical responses and allow vivid memory recall of people or places. They can help transform your moods and move you from one state of mind to another,” says Shubhika Jain, Founder & CEO – RAS Luxury Oils.
People have started taking a holistic and preventive approach to healthcare and wellness. Massage therapy is common for athletes, sports (wo)men and fitness enthusiasts, but it is now widely accepted as regular healthcare by common working people who spend hours sitting at a desk and working on their laptops. It has now become a norm to go for regular massages on a monthly basis to enjoy some self-care and relaxation for the body. Today, massage therapy has gone beyond its traditional ways through wellness and healing techniques. Studies have shown that massage is an effective treatment and one of the best methods to prevent a range of physical and psychological conditions. With times changing where people are more aware of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through wellness and exercise, massage has proven to be one type of natural healing process to restore body functioning.
This story first appeared in the March 2020 issue of Healthcare India magazine here: