Massage is more than relaxing

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    Therapeutic Massage: A Timeline


    Massage is well known for reducing stress and promoting relaxation. And, a growing body of research also shows that massage therapy is effective for relieving and managing chronic and acute pain, a significant national health problem.

    According to the National Institute for Health, more than one-third of all Americans will suffer from chronic pain at some point in their lives, and approximately 14 percent of all employees take time off from work due to pain. Increasingly, massage therapists are being incorporated into pain management programs of hospitals and health care organizations. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has suggested massage therapy as one means to manage pain without use of pharmaceuticals.

    According to a recent American Hospital Association survey about their use of complementary and alternative medicine therapies, nearly 82 percent of responding hospitals included massage therapy among their health care offerings – with more than 70 percent utilizing massage therapy for pain management and relief.

    Recent clinical research on the efficacy of massage for pain relief notes that it is more effective for chronic back pain than other complementary therapies, promotes relaxation and alleviates the perception of pain and anxiety in cancer patients and reduces post-traumatic headaches better than cold pack treatments.

    There are more than 100 recognized massage modalities. Each technique is uniquely designed to achieve a specific goal. Swedish massage is the most common form of massage therapy in the United States. It utilizes a variety of strokes and pressure techniques to enhance the flow of blood to the heart, remove waste products from the tissues, stretch ligaments and tendons, and ease physical and emotional tension.

    Most people receive massage for: back pain; inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and tendinitis; stress relief and stress-related conditions; headaches and migraines; muscle and related conditions such as spasms, strains and sprains; repetitive strain injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome; circulatory and respiratory problems; and post-injury and post surgical rehabilitation.

    At your first massage therapy session, the practitioner will ask you about any symptoms you may have (like low back pain) and will also ask questions about your medical history. The practitioner may also initiate a discussion about what you expect to achieve from the massage session. The therapist leaves the room while you undress and lie down on the massage table. A sheet is draped over your body during the session and moved only to expose the part of the body being worked on at any given time. Massage oil or lotion is often used to reduce friction between the practitioner’s hands and your skin. The therapist will ask whether they are applying too much or too little pressure. The manner in which a practitioner massages your body depends on the problem being treated. A massage session can last from 15 – 90 minutes and may include a schedule of follow-up visits, depending on the severity of your situation.

    For more information on therapeutic massage, contact The American Massage Therapy Association, the professional association representing the field of massage therapy. Finding a qualified massage therapist is paramount; only 33 states and the District of Columbia regulate the profession of massage therapy. AMTA helps consumers and other healthcare professionals locate an AMTA member massage therapist via its free Find a Massage Therapist national locater service at www.amtamassage.org or 1-888-THE-AMTA.


    Resources: Wikipedia, About.com, The American Massage Therapy Association, University of Maryland Medical Center

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