The Top 5 Benefits of Remedial Massage
Do you often feel stressed? Do you suffer from aches and pains or constant niggling headaches? Do the demands of everyday life affect your physical and mental health? Well, you are not alone. In our fast-paced modern world where stress is high, work hours are long and we are increasingly time poor, the need to maintain our mental health and well-being has never been more important. In Australia, health consciousness is on the rise. More and more people are turning to complementary medicines and are seeking combined conventional medical and holistic treatments to deal with a variety of physical, mental and emotional ailments with the aim of improving their general wellness. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the alternative health therapy field in Australia is booming, contributing $4 billion to the economy annually (source: IBISWorld, 2018). With massage therapists making up the largest professional group in the complementary healthcare sector, the demand for skilled therapists continues to rise. Given this, we thought it fitting to learn about the history of massage and popular massage techniques. As an added bonus, we look at the growing area of massage therapy in Australia to help educate you—our readers—about the top 5 benefits of remedial massage.
The History of Massage
The history of massage therapy dates back thousands of years. Ancient cultures believed the practice of touch as a healing method had medical benefits including treating physical injuries, relieving pain and promoting a balance in physiological systems to create harmonious energy flow, allowing the body to heal itself naturally. From the ancient Egyptians who were credited for the creation of reflexology to the Hindus use of healing touch in the practice of Ayurvedic medicine, the use of massage therapy has existed for centuries and is one of the oldest healthcare practices known. Although these ancient civilisations were convinced of the therapeutic benefits of massage, the use of massage therapy in Western medicine remains in its infancy. But the good news is, its use if rapidly growing.
What is Massage?
Massage therapy is the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body (such as tendons, ligaments and fascia) for therapeutic or relaxation purposes. Hands are primarily used in massage therapy although forearms, elbows, instruments and even feet can be used to apply different intensity and pressure during treatment. Using a variety of techniques, massage therapists knead, rub or tap areas of the body to improve circulation, relieve pain and tenderness, reduce stress, increase flexibility and relax the whole body by targeting the skeletal, circulatory, muscular, lymphatic, and nervous systems. The overarching aim of massage is to help promote general wellness with healing touch.
Skills of a Massage Therapist
Massage therapists are well-trained to manipulate the soft tissue of the body to treat a variety of conditions by using touch with sensitivity to discern the optimal amount and degree of pressure and movement to apply on each client. Using too little or too much pressure may have a limited therapeutic effect or cause the body to tense up. A sensitive touch will allow the therapist to skilfully ‘feel’ their way around a person’s body and locate areas of tension and pain while ensuring the client remains relaxed and receptive to the therapy.
In addition to providing massage treatment, massage therapists assess each client to create an individualised treatment plan. They are well-trained to perform musculoskeletal assessments, monitor and evaluate treatments, advise on injury prevention and treatment, and adapt remedial massage practice to meet each client’s specific needs. Furthermore, they have strong communication and interpersonal skills, enabling them to establish and manage relationships with a diverse client population and to engage with other health professionals in order to maximise positive client outcomes.
Popular Massage Techniques
If you’ve ever been for a massage you may have noticed that there are many different massage styles. For example, some massage therapists use long smooth strokes to relax the body while others use oils and stones to alleviate tension and pain. The length of massage can also vary, as can the amount of pressure applied by the therapist. Before deciding which massage style is best for you, you need to ask yourself what the purpose of the massage is. Are you wanting a massage to relax and help alleviate stress or do you have a specific injury or health condition that requires symptom relief? The answer to this question will help the massage therapist decide which technique is best for you based on your current wants and needs as well as allow them to customise your massage according to your age, injury and medical history. Some of the more popular types of massage therapy include:
- Reflexology: Based on the principle that there are reflex points in our hands, feet, face and ears which respond to pressure, promoting relaxation and stimulating the body’s own natural healing process.
- Swedish massage: The use of five specialised gentle techniques that target the upper layers of muscles to relieve tension, relax the body and increase flexibility.
- Shiatsu: An Oriental massage technique using varying rhythmic pressure that aims to improve vital energy flow called qi.
- Hot stone therapy: The use of hot volcanic rocks (heat-retaining basalt stones) placed on key body points such as the back, stomach and face combined with regular massage techniques to increase circulation, loosen muscles and ease tension.
- Pregnancy massage: A complementary form of prenatal care that helps relieve the common discomforts experienced during pregnancy such as swelling in the arms and legs, backaches and joint pain.
- Trigger point massage: Focuses on locating muscle knots (trigger sites) caused by acute, sustained and repetitive muscle overloads and applying direct pressure for symptom relief.
- Lymphatic drainage: A gentle, rhythmic whole-body treatment that stimulates and detoxifies the lymphatic system, relaxes the nervous system and generally aids the body’s immune system.
Growth of Remedial Massage in Australia
One of the more popular techniques of massage that has experienced huge growth in Australia is remedial massage. Today, it is increasingly complementing traditional multidisciplinary approaches to general health care. What’s more, workplaces around the country and indeed around the world are recognising the health benefits of remedial massage. This has led to a growing trend of offering a complimentary massage service in the workplace. Global companies such as Google have instituted massage programs to promote overall well-being, which benefits both the employer and their employees alike. As a result, the development and professionalism of the massage industry have been strengthened, especially in the remedial massage area. This begs the question, what is remedial massage and how does it differ to other forms of massage?
Remedial massage is a complementary therapy that assists in rehabilitation, pain relief and injury management of musculoskeletal disorders and acute or chronic conditions. One of the primary goals of remedial massage is to locate and repair muscles that are damaged, tense, knotted or immobile, to aid in the body’s own healing process following injury and to promote relaxation and well-being. During healing treatment, a remedial massage therapist uses various manual techniques to apply different pressure to the body, ranging from gentle and shallow (manipulation of the superficial muscle layers) to strong and deep (manipulation of deeper muscle layers as well as connective tissue). The treatment techniques employed by remedial massage therapists include trigger point therapy, deep tissue massage, neuromuscular facilitation and myofascial techniques. These therapists are also skilled in conducting a specialised range of assessments to get a comprehensive view of their client’s issues and customise therapeutic treatment. For example, remedial massage therapists conduct Range of Motion testing (assesses joint movement, highlight limitations and indicate the types of tissue involved), Functional Tests (these help guide treatment plans based on the client’s history and the nature of their condition) and Postural Analysis (identify postural imbalances by evaluating the positioning of a client’s body) (source: Association of Massage Therapists).
What To Expect When You Visit A Remedial Massage Therapist
To get the most out of a remedial massage, it is important to discuss your reasons for making an appointment and talking to your massage therapist about your general health and any issues you may be experiencing. The therapist will then get you to lie on a massage table and cover you with a towel, exposing only the areas that they work on. After applying oils or creams, the remedial massage therapist will use a variety of techniques to work on problem areas. Before and during your massage, it is important that you speak to your massage therapist about the level of pressure you want them to use as well as being open about any discomfort you may feel. You may also experience some soreness a few days after treatment. Therefore, it is helpful to ask your remedial massage therapist about the best way to treat tenderness following your massage.
Top 5 Benefits of Remedial Massage
So, now that you are aware of what remedial massage is and you know what to expect during treatment, you may find it interesting to know that there are many benefits of remedial massage. Sure, massage can make us feel good and more relaxed but did you know there is research and anecdotal evidence to suggest that massage can have positive effects on not only our physical health but also on our mental and emotional well-being? Listed below are the top 5 benefits of remedial massage that may surprise you:
- It reduces stress
Remedial massage has been found to reduce both physical and emotional stress by affecting neurohormones that regulate behaviour and emotions including elevating endorphins (the bodies ‘feel-good’ hormones) and decreasing cortisol levels (a hormone the body releases in response to stress and pain). This produces a number of mood-enhancing benefits and can have positive flow-on effects such as reducing depression and anxiety, improving sleep and concentration, and boosting energy levels.
- It boosts immunity
Remedial massage has been found to stimulate natural killer cells (which fight off invading cells), improve lymphatic drainage (which assists the body’s detoxification as part of general health maintenance), boost lymphocytes (the white blood cells which help defend our bodies from disease) and lower levels of cytokines (the molecules that play a role in inflammation). This boosts the effectiveness of the body’s immune system, helping it to fight off disease.
- It corrects postural issues
Many of us spend a large part of our day sitting, which leads to postural stress that tends to manifest in our neck, shoulders and lower back. By assessing and monitoring individual clients, remedial massage therapists can design customised treatment plans that address such postural issues. Using techniques that lengthen and stretch the muscles and relieve tension, remedial massage therapists help to balance and realign the body, improving our posture and counteracting the negative effects of sitting for prolonged periods.
- It increases joint mobility and flexibility
Many people suffering from acute and chronic conditions and physical disabilities such as back and shoulder pain, arthritis, cerebral palsy, sciatica and general muscle overuse experience stiffness, discomfort, reduced flexibility and movement difficulties. This reduced range of movement is often caused by muscle tension around the joints. Remedial massage therapists can use a number of stretching and mobilisation techniques that help improve circulation, loosen muscles and ease tension. This not only helps reduce pain and stiffness but also increases joint strength, stability, mobility and flexibility.
- It improves sleep and concentration
The quality and quantity of our sleep are vital for healthy functioning. However, most of us do not get enough sleep or experience sleep issues such as insomnia, which has detrimental effects on our physical and mental health. This can include us experiencing problems with concentration and decision-making, fatigue, slowed reaction times and irritability. By relaxing the body, reducing muscle tension, improving circulation and reducing stress, remedial massage can effectively and naturally promote a good night’s sleep, helping to increase mental clarity and alertness.
So there you have it. Our top 5 benefits of remedial massage and 5 compelling reasons to book an appointment today.