The accumulation of everyday stress
Working long hours at the computer can result in stress, muscle tension, injury or pain which can drain you physically, mentally or emotionally. This can impact negatively on your social life as well as on your work. As the most important benefit of massage is the reduction of stress, general health can be improved and maintained by massage therapy and the negative effects of stress can be alleviated or prevented. On an ongoing basis it can reduce pain, prevent injuries and maintain health. It is an important part of staying healthy physically and mentally as it relieves stress which is responsible for 90% of illness and pain.
Due to reflex effects through the autonomic nervous system, massage affects internal organs and areas removed from the area being treated. It promotes relaxation, reduces pain, boosts mood and mental clarity. Massage can be used for relaxation or stimulation and may be applied to rehabilitation after surgery, injury or poor health. It improves blood and lymph circulation, increases natural killer cells and lymphocytes which destroy cancer cells, boosts mood by increasing serotonin and dopamine and relieves pain by increasing pain killing endorphins. Massage can relax the body, decrease blood pressure and heart rate and reduce stress and depression. It may also provide symptomatic relief for acute and chronic conditions such as headache, facial pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. It realigns and rejuvenates, restoring balance to body and being, so you can take in your stride whatever life throws your way. It promotes digestion, joint mobility, muscle relaxation, relief of spasms and cramps.
Bodywork as a medical treatment
Massage therapy is becoming increasingly sophisticated and effective as it moves into new areas such as medical massage which is the fastest growing modality of massage today. Training in massage therapy was an integral part of medical massage and nursing care up to the mid 1950s when it dropped to almost nothing due to the rapid development and almost exclusive use of technology in the twentieth century. Manual therapy was no longer seen as necessary for standard hospital care. Today, however, it is realized that massage in the hospital is necessary to provide a sense of wholeness and care which is absent in the increasing fragmentation of hospitalization due to the growing emphasis on specialization. Medical massage uses the traditional strokes of massage which are then specifically adapted to treat, for instance, cancer patients, hospital patients and pregnant women. Medical massage may be given in the hospital setting, an outpatient clinic or as a mobile therapy where the therapist travels to the patient’s home to give the patient a personally tailored treatment protocol.
In massage therapy for the cancer patient, the therapist pays close attention to the side effects of the curative medical treatment to devise an appropriate protocol. Here the therapy is designed around the particular side effects the patient is experiencing such as pain, lymph-oedema, scarring, nausea, stress, tension, insomnia, fatigue, anger, depression and anxiety.
Thus cancer massage is a uniquely designed therapy which complements the curative medical treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Hence, it requires more extensive knowledge of medical procedures, pathology and side effects than ordinary therapy. Failure to understand this will result in harm to the patient as the therapist will not be able to adapt the therapy to design a competent treatment protocol.
In pregnancy massage the therapist must take into account mainly musculoskeletal issues caused by the weight of the growing uterus altering the centre of gravity of the woman’s body. Treatment in this case will focus especially on upper and lower back pain, sacroiliac dysfunction as well as pubic symphysis and lower abdominal pain. The therapist must also be alert to and able to detect acute medical problems such as deep vein thrombosis and preeclampsia which are both potentially fatal if not medically treated.
Bodywork has a broad therapeutic application
The greatest benefit of massage is the reduction of stress and tension. Since a wide range of physical and psychological conditions stem from stress, massage can help alleviate these conditions and therefore has a broad therapeutic application. The most prominent benefit and use of massage is the alleviation of stress which then relieves muscular tension, promotes relaxation and treats lower back, neck and shoulder pain, pregnancy, bedsores, severe burns, iliotibial band syndrome and spinal cord injury as well as ameliorating systemic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, attention deficit disorder (ADD), fibromyalgia, asthma, autism, diabetes, bulimia, eczema, HIV, lymphoedema, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Sleep disorders, cancer-related fatigue, diabetes, high blood pressure, spinal cord injury, low back pain, lowered immunity, post-operative surgery, infertility, autism, eating disorders, age-related disorders and smoking cessation can all be treated by massage.
Bodywork, such as shiatsu and massage, offers a drug-free, non-invasive and person centred approach based on the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Bodywork in Pregnancy
The great physical, mental and emotional changes of pregnancy affect your lifestyle, your job and your relationships with friends and family. Massage helps you integrate these changes successfully. Massage therapy during pregnancy improves overall health, decreases stress and relieves muscles aches and pains. It addresses the many discomforts associated with the skeletal, muscular and circulation changes brought on by hormone shifts during pregnancy.
Massage alleviates low back, hip and leg pain, oedema, nausea, heartburn and constipation. Regular massage decreases anxiety and lowers stress hormones during pregnancy. Labour is shorter and easier while babies are healthier. There are fewer obstetric and postnatal complications, such as premature birth and low birth weight.
Bodywork for Cancer Patients
Massage for cancer patients is a safe, non-pharmacological treatment without any side effects. It helps reduce anxiety, fatigue, depression, stress, tension, anger, insomnia and improve self-image and quality of life. Massage may reduce pain, muscle tension, nausea, constipation, lymphoedema and scarring.
Massage as a supportive care intervention for children with cancer helps reduce pain, anxiety, depression, constipation and high blood pressure. Massage also strengthens the function of the immune system and reduces nausea and depression during periods of immune suppression following chemotherapy.