Massage therapy is the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for the purpose of normalizing those tissues and consists of manual techniques that include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, and/or causing movement of or to the body.
Generally, massage is known to affect the circulation of blood and the flow of blood and lymph,
reduce muscular tension or flaccidity, affect the nervous system through stimulation or sedation, andenhance tissue healing. These effects provide a number of benefits:
Massage therapy also has a number of documented clinical benefits. For example, massage can reduce anxiety, improve pulmonary function in young asthma patients, reduce psycho-emotional distress in persons suffering from chronic inflammatory bowel disease, increase weight and improve motor development in premature infants, and may enhance immune system functioning. Some medical conditions that massage therapy can help are: allergies, anxiety and stress, arthritis, asthma and bronchitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries, chronic and temporary pain, circulatory problems, depression, digestive disorders, tension headache, insomnia, myofascial pain, sports injuries, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
Going for a massage requires little in the way of preparation. Generally, one should be clean and should not eat just before a massage. One should not be under the influence of alcohol or non-medicinal drugs. Massage therapists generally work by appointment and usually will provide information about how to prepare for an appointment at the time of making the appointment.
Massage is comparatively safe; however it is generally contraindicated, i.e., it should not be used, if a person has one of the following conditions: advanced heart diseases, hypertension (high blood pressure), phlebitis, thrombosis, embolism, kidney failure, cancer if massage would accelerate metastasis (i.e., spread a tumor) or damage tissue that is fragile due to chemotherapy or othertreatment, infectious diseases, contagious skin conditions, acute inflammation, infected injuries, unhealed fractures, dislocations, frostbite, large hernias, torn ligaments, conditions prone to hemorrhage, and psychosis.
Massage should not be used locally on affected areas (i.e., avoid using massage on the specific areas of the body that are affected by the condition) for the following conditions: rheumatoid arthritis flare up, eczema, goiter, and open skin lesions. Massage may be used on the areas of the body that are not affected by these conditions.
In some cases, precautions should be taken before using massage for the following conditions: pregnancy, high fevers, osteoporosis, diabetes, recent post operative cases in which pain and muscular splinting (i.e., tightening as a protective reaction) would be increased, apprehension, and mental conditions that may impair communication or perception. In such cases, massage may or may not be appropriate. The decision on whether to use massage must be based on whether it may cause harm. For example, if someone has osteoporosis, the concern is whether bones are strong enough to withstand the pressure applied. If one has a health condition and has any hesitation about whether massage therapy would be appropriate, a physician should be consulted.
Massage therapy does not have side effects. Sometimes people are concerned that massage may leave them too relaxed or too mentally unfocused. To the contrary, massage tends to leave people feeling more relaxed and alert