Massage Therapy and Stress: An Overview – Part I

Massage therapy modalities are as diverse in nature as leaves on a tree; and subsequently, quite effective in helping to naturally heal common and chronic health conditions. In this article, we are going to discuss some of the more common massage therapy modalities, specific strokes and general health benefits.

One of the widely used types of massage therapy is Swedish massage. Most massage therapists have learned and practice this particular form of bodywork; and utilize four types of touch therapy: Effleurage, Friction, Petrisage and Tapotement. These deep tissue motions are known to relax body tissues, increase blood circulation, and alleviate stress.

Another emerging massage therapy is reflexology. Reflexology is a foot massage therapy based on the theory of meridian therapy; whereby parts of the foot sole are believed to be interrelated to various body systems. Pressure is applied to specific points to the sole to help in healing, and in relieving stress. In addition to foot reflexology, there are a number of practitioners that practice hand, ear and body reflexology as well.

Some popular Eastern massage therapy methods include Thai massage, Acupressure/Shiatsu, and Tuina. Thai massage therapy is a bodywork modality that is based on the Yin and Yang principle of restoring energy balance to the body, and is administered through muscle stretching motions. Acupressure (also referred to as Shiatsu) is a distinct massage therapy that facilitates finger pressure to particular energy channels (meridians) along the body. This massage method is similar to acupuncture without the needles, and is believed to restore harmony to the chi (energy flow) to the body; which, in turn restores health and vitality. Tuina massage therapy is commonly taught in many Oriental medicine programs and is referred to as “Chinese medical massage.” In Tuina, various touch methods are used to balance Qi (chi) and the internal organs and body systems.

Myofascial release is a massage therapy that mixes stretches and massage to the fibrous bands of connective tissue (fascia). Gently kneading and softly stretching the fascia, myofascial release lengthens, softens and realigns the fascia; treating an array of health conditions including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, sprains, rheumatoid arthritis, among others.

Finally, lymphatic drainage massage therapy is specifically used to reduce edema (swelling of the tissues due to water retention). Facilitating gentle massage along the body’s lymphatic system, lymphatic drainage (also known as manual lymphatic drainage, MLD) is helpful in stimulating the immune system and improving circulation. This particular massage technique is beneficial to patients who suffer from chronic disease like congestive heart failure and cancer.

Stay tuned for Massage Therapy Overview – Part II of this series of articles.

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