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Massage Therapy

Massage is one of the oldest healing interventions -- records of it being used for soothing purposes date back to 3,000 BC. In fact, the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates (c.460 -- c.377 BC) wrote: 'The way to health is to have a scented bath and an oiled massage each day.'

There is nothing more natural than the use of touch to relieve pain or distress, whether it is a hug, a consoling hand on the shoulder or a mother rubbing her child's injured knee. The skin, the largest organ in the body, has millions of nerve endings and touch is the first 'sense' the foetus possesses. The baby's perception of its external world is largely arrived at through touch and its subsequent learning pattern is largely shaped by how it was or was not touched during the early months of its life.

Massage can be seen as a form of 'structured touch' or 'therapeutic touch', which can be used to bring about a sense of relaxation and relief from muscle tension. It's been found particularly useful for body aches, backaches, joint pains and headaches.

Most Western forms of massage techniques are derived from the work of Henrik Ling (1776-1839), a Scandinavian practitioner who devised what is now called the Swedish massage.

This incorporates four basic techniques:
  Percussion -- short, sharp, fast, rhythmic movements delivered with the side of the closed wrist of the open hand on the buttocks, thighs and lower back
  Effleurage -- slow, rhythmic, gliding strokes using the palms of the hands close together
  Petrissage -- grasping and squeezing sections of the skin much as one does with bread dough
  Frottage or friction -- a series of small, circular movements made by one or more fingers or the heel of the hand.

In India, Ayurvedic hot oil and herbal massages are the popular massage techniques used. These are of different types and use various types of strokes such as tapping, kneading, rubbing, and squeezing. The oils are used to avoid unnecessary friction between the skin and hands.

Other specialised massage therapies include the Shiatsu, a Japanese system of 'finger pressure' or acupressure; and reflexology, a form of specialised foot massage which concentrates on specific areas of the soles of the feet. People with special conditions such as pregnancy, open wounds and vein thrombosis; or major illnesses, such as cancer or sensitive skin should seek special advice before going in for massage.

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