What is Massage Therapy?

February 4th, 2022

Massage therapy dates back thousands of years ago. It is believed to have originated from India but quickly spread to different parts of the world including ancient Greece, China, Japan, Egypt, and the Roman Empire. Massage by nature is therapeutic. It is the practice of pressing, kneading, and rubbing the body including the muscles and soft tissues. This practice is done mainly using the hands, but for certain types of therapy, the elbows, forearms, and feet may be used. Massage therapy is a non-invasive way to treat many conditions including anxiety, arthritis, muscle pain, sports injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and migraines. It can be used as a primary treatment or in conjunction with other treatments to encourage physical and emotional healing and help restore the body’s balance.

Lady enjoying a massage therapy Massage Therapy can help ease pain, muscle tension, and promote overall health and well-being.
There are various types of massage therapy including, but not limited to, Swedish massage (the most popular), aromatherapy massage, hot stone massage, cupping therapy, Thai massage, deep tissue massage, and sports massage. Depending on the type of massage, a registered massage therapist (RMT) applies gentle or strong pressure to different parts of the body.

In this article, we will learn about the various benefits of massage and the three most popular types.

Benefits of Regular Massage Therapy

It Increases Overall Happiness

Massages can help decrease or eliminate muscle and joint pain, increase blood circulation, increase happy hormones (dopamine), and decrease stress hormones. The combination of these effects leads to a happier YOU! The emotional benefits result in mental clarity leading to calmness and a soothing feeling.

It Improves Sleep

Getting sufficient sleep is crucial for maintaining your overall health. Massages can help you relax and reduce anxiety, and this can help encourage restful sleep. According to sleep.org, massages may improve sleep in two ways — alleviating stress and decreasing cortisol. Massages can also help with better sleep by managing pain caused by injury or certain health conditions.

It Improves Your Physical Health

When you are in a state of relaxation and calm, this can have a positive effect on your overall health. Massage therapy can lower heart rate and blood pressure, which lowers the risk of a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. Research has proven that massages can also strengthen the immune system by increasing white blood cells.

It Increases Concentration

When our body feels good, our minds can focus better, our memory is sharper, and our ability to concentrate increases. According to Darcy Chiasson, Massage Therapy Instructor at Eastern College, if you have ever found a tender “knot” in your shoulder or neck area, often, these knots are myofascial trigger points. Trigger points are a bit of a scientific mystery; we know there are painful spots within very tight muscle fibers, but exactly how they occur isn’t well understood. What is interesting though is how well they respond to massage. A skilled massage therapist can find trigger points as small as grains of rice, and compress or knead them until they relax and feel less painful.

Most Popular Massages in Canada

Swedish Massage

As the name implies, this type of massage originated in Sweden in 1868 and was inspired by a Dutch doctor. The five techniques of a Swedish massage are the following: long, gliding strokes (effleurage), kneading and squeezing of the muscles and tissue (petrissage), circular rubbing motions (frictions), fast tapping (tapotement), and rapidly shaking certain muscles (vibration). Swedish massage is gentler than a deep tissue massage. The main goal of this kind of massage is to cause relaxation and decrease muscle tension. This is a great option for anyone who is new to massages.

Deep Tissue Massage

Techniques of a deep tissue massage are similar to a Swedish massage. The pressure is stronger, and the strokes are slower to reach deep layers of muscle. Depending on your needs, it can be performed on your entire body or a specific location. This type of massage is used to treat chronic muscle pain or sports injuries. It is possible to experience some discomfort during these treatments. Everyone’s pain tolerance is different, so don’t shy away from communicating what feels comfortable to you with your therapist.

Hot Stone Massage

This type of therapy uses elements from nature — hot stones. Smooth, heated stones are placed on different parts of your body that produces a relaxing and healing effect. Stones are heated in water between 43 -55 degrees Celsius. After massaging the body with oil, stones are placed along your spine, chest, stomach, palms, feet, and toes. The heat of the stones promotes better blood circulation and creates deeper muscle relaxation. This massage helps with sleep, and relieves pain and anxiety.

How to Become a Massage Therapist

Massage therapy services is a booming industry. More and more people are looking for drug-free complementary treatments to manage anxiety, pain, or an injury. RMTs can find career opportunities in spas and resorts, health centers, massage clinics, sports teams, aged care facilities, and fitness centers or work on-site in a client’s home or office.

Helping people manage physical pain, reduce stress, and introduce a state of calmness is a highly fulfilling experience. If you find joy and satisfaction by helping others and by having a flexible schedule, this may be the perfect career path for you.

Visit Eastern College’s Massage Therapy program to learn more.