A massage is an excellent form of passive exercise. The word is derived from the Greek word ‘massier’ which means to knead. It involves the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. If correctly done on a bare body, it can be highly stimulating and invigorating.
As far back as 400 B.C., the great Hippocrates, the father of medicine, employed massage and manipulation in healing his patients. Since then it has been used as a mode of treatment for many ailments and it has restored many a sufferer to health and vigour.
Benefits of massage
The general massage, dealing with all body parts, is highly beneficial in many ways. It tones up the nervous system, influences respiration and quickens the elimination of poisons and waste material from the body through the various eliminative organs such as the lungs, skin, kidneys and bowels. It also boosts blood circulation and metabolic processes. A massage removes facial wrinkles, helps to fill out hollow cheeks and neck and eases stiffness, sore muscles and numbness.
Different kinds of massage (manipulation)
There are five fundamental ways of manipulation in massage and these are
- effleurage (stroking),
- friction ( rubbing),
- petrissage ( kneading),
- tapotement (percussion)
- and vibration (shaking or trembling).
Effleurage massage :
This involves sliding with the hands, using long even strokes over the surface of the body. Effleurage is performed in five ways, namely stroking with (I) the palms of two hands; (ii) the palm of one hand; (iii) the knuckles; (iv) the ball of the thumb and (v) the fingertips. Effleurage increases blood circulation and soothes the nervous system. It also warms and relaxes. It is very helpful in the atrophied conditions of the skin.
Friction massage :
The movements, which are circular in nature are performed with the help of the thumb and tips of fingers or the palm of the hand towards the joints or around the joints. Friction limbers up joints, tendons, and muscles and facilitates the removal of deposits by breaking them. It also helps in reducing swelling after nerve inflammation.
Petrissage massage :
This is the process of kneading, pressing and rolling the tissues and is performed with one or both hands, with two thumbs or with thumbs and fingers. One should apply heavy pressure for deep kneading and light pressure for superficial kneading. Petrissage is a treatment of the muscles. It increases nutrition, strengthens muscles, relieves intestinal congestion and helps elimination of the poisons. It boosts long activity and cellular respiration eliminates fatigue poisons and tones up nerve endings.
Tapotement massage :
This involves hacking, tapping, clapping and beating and is achieved by striking the body rapidly. Short and quick blows are generally given from the wrist. Tapotement helps in the atrophied condition of the muscles. It increases blood supply, soothes nerves and strengthens muscles.
This is achieved by rapidly shaking the pressing movements by use of the hand or fingers on the body. The vibrating hand should move constantly. This is beneficial in neuritis and neuralgia after the inflammatory stage is over. It stimulates circulation, glandular activity and nervous plexuses. It also helps in bowel movements.
Another form of massage helpful in most elements is the vibratory massage. This can be done by trained persons only. The vibratory muscles are more efficiently administered by a special, electrically operated machine.
Therapeutic uses of massage
Massage can be used with advantage as a method of treatment for many common ailments. The various forms of massage and their usefulness in various diseases are described here in brief.
Massage of the joints
Stiff and swollen joints can be cured by massage combined with mechanical movements. Massage is, however, not recommended in severe inflammatory cases of the joints and in tubercular joints. It should also be avoided in infectious diseases like diphtheria and gonorrhoea which cause the formation of pus as massage may spread the pus to the entire system.
Sprains and bruises can be cured by massage. In these cases, affected parts should first be bathed with hot water for 15 to 30 minutes. Next, the massage should be done for a few minutes. Gentle stroking and kneading are recommended on and around the injured tissues. Fractures can also be treated through massage.
This form of massage is of great help in atrophy of the muscles which usually follows if the muscles are not used for any length of time. This condition may also be brought about by injuries, diseases of the joints, inflammation of the muscles and nerves, and by too long use of cats, bandages and splints.
A human being carries one-half of the weight of his body in the form of muscular tissues.
One-fourth of the blood supply circulates in the muscles. When one gets a good massage treatment, the muscles get regenerated and are then capable of holding half of the blood supply. Massage thus provides additional nourishment to feed the muscular tissues, helping them to grow strong. Tapping, striking, and vibrating help the muscle develop its contractile power.
Muscle massage is brought by the first effleurage, kneading, followed by tapotement. Later, active and passive movements are given.
Massage is employed for eliminating muscle contraction and for breaking adhesions. A little moderate kneading, and percussion cause muscles to contract and become stronger. Deep circular kneading and vibration loosen the muscles. Kneading under and around the muscles breaks up adhesions.
Massaging the nerves
Massage benefits many nerve problems. In case of acute inflammation of the nerves, massage should be done carefully. Light and gentle stroking are recommended. Deep pressure should not be used on swollen nerves for it will increase the inflammation. All that is needed is just a gentle tapotement or beating of the nerve.
Nerve compression is recommended for soothing nerves. Grasp the limb with both hands, and create firm pressure around and down the arm. Start with the shoulder and proceed down to the wrist. As you leave the grip, bring the hands down a little and make another pressure. As a result, blood circulation will increase. Spinal nerve compression is extremely beneficial. It is done by the palm of the hand. The vibration of the fingers stimulates it. Sleeplessness can be cured by long slow and gentle stroking down the spine and entire back.
This form of massage is beneficial in constipation. It stimulates the peristalsis of the small intestines, tones up the muscles of the abdomen walls and mechanically eliminates the contents of both large and small intestines. Abdominal massage should not be done in general, femoral, inguinal and umbilical hernia, inflammation of the uterus, bladder, ovaries and fallopian tubes,
kidney stones, bladder or gall bladder, ulcers of the stomach and intestines, and pregnancy. Abdominal massage should not be done after a heavy meal, but after two hours or so. The bladder should be emptied before the massage. The patient is made to lie on his back with his knees drawn up. This enables the abdomen wall to relax.
The masseur should stand on the right side of the patient and use his fingertips for friction around the umbilical region from right to left. He should likewise alternatively knead the walls and roll with both hands, making deep and firm pressure. He should knead with the hand and fingertips and keep clear of any wound or tender places. He should later take up massaging the larger intestines.
The manipulation of the large intestine should begin on the right side. Keep it going upwards and across the transverse colon and move right down on the left side to the sigmoid flexure and rectum. Circular kneading should be done with the help of the three middle fingers. At the same time press into the contents of the abdomen, following the course of the larger colon with a crawling motion.
Keep kneading by means of a few circular movements in one spot with the help of fingertips. Keep moving the fingers a little further along. Knead repeatedly. Use the knuckles of the hand to make deep pressure along the large colon, moving the hands along after each pressure.
Once the kneading of the abdomen is over, follow up by tapotement with both hands cupped or use the knuckles of the hand. Vibration may also be employed. The patient could also be asked to do some gymnastic exercises for strengthening the walls of the abdomen. Since blood pressure increases during abdominal manipulation, patients with hypertension should avoid abdominal massage. Massage should also be avoided in cases where there has been recent bleeding in the lungs, the stomach or the brain.
Chest massage is helpful in many ways. It strengthens the chest muscles, increases circulation and tones up the nervous system of the chest, heart and lungs. It is especially recommended for the weakness of the lungs, palpitation and organic heart disorders. Bust and mammary glands can be developed by proper massage.
The patient is made to lie on the back with the arms at the sides. The masseur starts manipulating the chest by means of strokes with both hands on each side of the breast bone. A circular motion is formed by the movement made up and down, moving down the chest.
Next, the muscle kneading is done by picking up the skin and muscles with both hands. Treatment is given to both sides of the chest likewise. Circular kneading is next done by placing one hand on each side of the breast bone and making the circular motion outward towards the side.
Tapotement follows by hacking and slapping.
Massage of the back
The purpose of the massage of the back is to stimulate the nerves and circulation for treating backache, rheumatic afflictions of the back muscles, and for soothing the nervous system.
The patient is made to lie down with the arms at the sides. The masseur effleurages the back from the shoulders downwards using both hands on each side of the spine. Stroking is done from the sacrum upward. Friction follows with each hand at the sides of the spine going down slowly. Next, kneading by muscle picking is done with squeezing.
Alternate rapid pushing and pulling movement of the hands sliding down the spine. Circular kneading should also be done. The treatment should end by slapping, hacking and cupping on each side of the spine. Gentle stroking and light kneading of the back is relieving and soothing. Percussion and vibration result in a stimulating experience.
The vibration of the end of the spine benefits the sacral nerves and pelvic organs. It is recommended for constipation, haemorrhoids, weakness and congestion of the bladder and sexual organs.
Massage of the throat
This helps to overcome headaches, sore throat and catarrh of the throat. The patient is made to throw his head back. The masseur places the palms of both hands on the sides of the neck with thumbs under the chin, and fingers under the ears. A downward stroke is next made towards the chest over the jugular veins. Do not exert heavily on the jugular veins.