Massage Therapy

What is it?

Massage is a hands-on technique used to stimulate the body through the skin, the body's largest sensory organ. Massage boosts the circulatory and immune systems and is part of many health systems; different techniques are practised and integrated into various complementary therapies. Gentle massage can trigger the release of endorphins, the body's own painkillers, and induce feelings of comfort and well-being. Stronger massage may help to stretch uncomfortable muscles and ease stiff joints, improving mobility and flexibility. Massage directly affects heart-rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestion and skin tone. It can lower levels of stress hormones which weaken the immune system. The psychological effect is to release tension and reduce anxiety.

Western (or Swedish) massage is generally given to a patient lying on a table. Different degrees and rhythms of pressure are used and a variety of techniques have been developed. Remedial massage focuses on conditions such as muscle strain.
Manual lymph drainage (a gentle pumping massage) stimulates the lymphatic system to help eliminate metabolic wastes from the body.
Eastern massage, such as shiatsu, uses acupressure techniques applying pressure rather than stroking, aiming to balance energy forces in the body.

Most doctors endorse massage in the light of substantial clinical evidence and patients' experiences.
The general precautions for massage should be observed: seek medical advice if the patient has phlebitis, thrombosis, varicose veins, acute back pain or fever. Swellings, fractures, bruises and skin infections should not be massaged. Massage of the abdomen, legs and feet should not be given in the first three months of pregnancy. Cancer patients should be treated by specifically trained practitioners who have knowledge of which areas to avoid and which techniques are most appropriate.

Conditions that may respond to massage:

Back pain
Muscle disorders
Joint disorders
High blood-pressure
Digestive disorders
Low immune system


British Massage Therapy Council (BMTC)
78 Meadow Street
Lancashire PR1 1TS
Tel: 01772 881 063

Massage Therapy Institute of Great Britain
PO Box 2726
London NW2 3NR
Tel: 0208 2081607

London College of Massage
5-6 Newman Passage
London W1P 3FF
Tel: 020 7637 7125

If undertaking any therapy, always check its suitability for a specific condition.

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