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Massage Therapy: The Past and the Present

Massage Therapy: The Past and the Present

Rachel Justis


History of Massage Therapy: 

The use of massage for healing purposes dates back 4,000 years in Chinese medical literature and continues to be an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). A contemporary form of massage, known as Swedish massage, was introduced to the United States in the 1850s.

By the end of the 19th century, a significant number of American doctors were practicing this manual technique, and the nation’s first massage therapy clinic had opened its doors to the public.

In the early 20th century, the rise of technology and prescription drugs began to overshadow massage therapy. For the next several decades, massage remained dormant, with only a few therapists continuing to practice the “ancient” technique.

During the 1970s, however, both the general public and the medical profession began to take notice of alternative medicine and mind-body therapies, including massage therapy.

Today, more than 125,000 massage therapists practice in the United States. Their numbers are growing rapidly to keep up with the more than 80 million massage therapy appointments people make every year.

General Benefits of a Massage

Massage has been practiced as a healing therapy for centuries in nearly every culture around the world. It helps relieve muscle tension, reduce stress, and evoke feelings of calmness. Although massage affects the body as a whole, it particularly influences the activity of the musculoskeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems.

The human touch has been shown to be emotionally and physically healing. When a practitioner massages soft tissue, electric signals are transmitted both to the local area and throughout the body. These signals, in combination with healing properties of touch, help heal damaged muscle, stimulate circulation, clear waste products via lymphatic system, boost the activity of the immune, system, reduce pain and tension, and induce a calming effect. Receiving a massage also tends to release endorphins which reduce the levels of certain stress hormones.

Clinical studies also show that massage may be an effective treatment for young children and adolescents with a wide range of health problems, including:

Autism: Autistic children, who usually don’t like being touched, show less autistic behavior and are more social and attentive after receiving massage therapy from their parents.

Atopic dermatitis/eczema: Children with this scaly, itchy skin problem seem to experience less redness, scaling, and other symptoms if receiving massage between flares. Massage should not be used when this skin condition is actively inflamed.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Massage may improve mood in children with ADHD and help them feel less fidgety and hyperactive.

Bulimia: Studies show that adolescents with this eating disorder feel less depressed and anxious after receiving massage therapy.

Cystic fibrosis: Massage may reduce anxiety and improve respiration in children with this lung condition.

Diabetes: Massage may help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce anxiety and depression in children with diabetes.

Rheumatoid arthritis: Children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) have been shown to experience less pain, morning stiffness, and anxiety as a result of massage therapy.

Source: Massage | University of Maryland Medical Centerhttp://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/massage#ixzz3NjxwWPl0

University of Maryland Medical Center

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