Massage is More Than a Great Back Rub
By Charles Hopkins
Published 09/20/2007 | Health
Of course it feels great to have your back rubbed, but the art and
science of massage is much more than that. Massage is a health care
modality that may be relatively new in the western world, but it has
been part of the healing and wellness tradition of many eastern
cultures for hundreds of years.
Even the names of common massage styles reflect that their heritage
is not based in North America but in much older civilizations, such as
Sweden, India, China, Thailand, Japan and Hawaii. Of course there are
also more modern modes of bodywork that were developed more recently,
based on the self-actualization movement with roots in California in
the early 1960s.
Regardless of the style of massage being practiced, the benefits
derived from the bodywork are quite similar. One of the primary
benefits of massage is relaxation and the reduction of the harmful
effects of stress on the body. Today's stressful world causes harm both
emotionally and physically. Our hectic pace and the problems of dealing
with both career and family take an emotional toll. But environmental
pollution also puts physical toxins into the body. Fortunately, massage
works to help in both of these areas.
The entire massage process relaxes the body, mind and spirit. Not
only are sore muscles soothed and aching joints relieved, but also the
entire atmosphere of a good massage session is geared toward
relaxation. The lights are dimmed. There may be candles burning softly.
Often there is relaxing music, sometimes accompanied by nature sounds
such as distant birdcalls or the gentle flow of water. All of these
elements assist in creating a totally relaxing environment.
On a physical level, massage therapy increases circulation of blood
through the muscles, assisting in removing accumulated toxins. One
study found that massage could lower the risk of breast cancer in
women. It revealed that women who wear tight-fitting underwear are more
at risk for cancer because the circulation in their breasts is
restricted. But when they massage their breasts on a regular basis,
circulation improves and environmental carcinogens can better be
A lesser-known benefit of massage, not necessarily supported by
western science, is that it improves the flow of energy throughout the
body. It is believed, particularly in the traditional medicines of
China and India that energy flows through meridian lines all across the
human body. Factors such as stress can restrict the energy flow, but
massage helps clear the blockages and allow the energy to move freely
For whatever the reason, massage has grown to be a much more
important element of modern culture within the past several decades. It
should be remembered, however, that not everyone who calls him or her a
massage practitioner is licensed or certified as such. Therefore,
especially if a prospective massage client is seeking a true healing
therapy, it is advisable to find out beforehand what massage training
and certification they actually have.