Massage Therapy is one of the earliest forms of medical treatment, and it often said to be the most natural and instinctive means of relieving discomfort and pain. The earliest Chinese, Egyptian and Indian writings all describe preventative and therapeutic uses of massage.
While the practice of massage therapy may be over 5000 years old, its popularity is still growing. Today, the focus of health care is shifting from a treatment model to one of prevention. Massage is widely accepted as an excellent complementary therapy to traditional medicine and an effective way of promoting good physical and mental health and well-being.
Massage therapy is a hands-on manipulation of the soft tissue and joints of the body, which include muscles, skin, tendons and associated fascia, ligaments and joint capsules. Massage therapy alleviates soft tissue discomfort associated with everyday and occupational stresses, muscular over-use and chronic pain syndromes. Movements such as kneading, tapping, rubbing, pressing, cupping, rolling, rocking, and vibrating for therapeutic purposes promote circulation of the lymphatic fluid and blood. This results in relief from pain and assists in the restoration of metabolic balance.
Massage therapy is recognized as effective treatment for many specific problems as well as preventive health care and stress management.
What is a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT)?
Massage therapy is self-regulated through The College of Massage Therapists of Ontario. Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs) complete extensive training and must pass government board examinations, which consist of written and practical exams before becoming registered. RMTs must adhere to a strict code of ethics as well as standards of practice, much like a medical doctor.
Registered Massage Therapists are highly trained in anatomy, physiology, advanced orthopedic assessment, neurological evaluations, and extensive pathology etc. They are qualified to perform health assessments to determine when massage is a suitable treatment option, perform bodywork techniques, and various other massage treatments.
Preparing for Your First Visit
Since massage therapy affects your whole body, your massage therapist will need to know as much about your medical history as possible. You will be asked to fill out a health history form and to identify specifically which areas you believe could benefit from massage. Your therapist will then discuss whether or not massage therapy is an appropriate treatment and various treatment options. Your massage therapist may perform certain assessments to evaluate your condition and to see if you have any presenting complaints.
It is very important that you inform the practitioner of any health problems or medications you are taking. Your massage therapist works alongside your doctor to provide effective treatment. RMTs are also trained to recognize health issues that you may not be aware of and therefore they may refer you to a medical doctor if necessary.
For your convenience health history forms are available here for downloading, or you can pick up the forms from the clinic prior to your first visit.
What should I expect during a massage therapy visit?
Massage therapy is a very relaxing and rewarding experience. Your massage or bodywork session will take place in a comfortable, quiet room. Soft music may be played to help you relax. You will lie on a table that is specifically designed for your comfort.
Depending on the primary technique your therapist uses, you may be partially dressed or entirely undressed (you may choose to leave your underwear on). You will be covered with a sheet and blanket at all times, except for the area being massaged. You should feel completely comfortable. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to talk to your therapist.
During your treatment, you will not be required to do anything except relax and make yourself comfortable. Your therapist may ask you to adjust your position periodically, or he/she may adjust it for you. Many people choose to close their eyes and relax completely; others prefer to talk with their therapist. It’s up to you.
Your massage will differ depending on the technique used by your therapist. Many therapists use a form of Swedish massage, which is often a baseline for practitioners. During a general Swedish massage, your session may start with broad, flowing strokes to help calm your nervous system and relax exterior muscles. As the massage progresses and you become more relaxed, pressure will gradually be increased to target specific areas of muscular tension. Often a light oil or lotion is used to reduce friction on the skin.
Do not hesitate to ask questions or mention if you feel any discomfort so that the massage therapist can use another approach or technique.
As with visits to any healthcare professionals, the length of your visit will depend on your unique needs. In an initial treatment session, for example, your RMT may spend 10-15 minutes performing clinical evaluations to determine whether massage is appropriate and whether or not treatment modifications need to be made. Similarly, during the final visit of your treatment session, you and your RMT will review what progress was made and discuss if any home care should be performed to assist in the healing process. Therefore the length of your sessions will vary throughout your treatment.
After therapy sessions, most people feel incredibly relaxed and refreshed. Some experience freedom from long-term aches and pains developed from tension or repetitive activity. After an initial period of relaxation, people often experience increased energy, heightened awareness, and greater productivity which can last for days.
Effects and Benefits
Many of today’s health problems can benefit from massage therapy because the manipulation of soft tissues affects so many of our bodily systems. Massage therapy treatments will have a therapeutic effect and improve health by acting directly on the muscular, nervous, circulatory and lymphatic (immune) systems.
As primary and rehabilitative care, massage therapy works directly to remove trauma from the muscles and fascia and is recommended by doctors and chiropractors to:
- Strengthen the immune system
- Provide greater joint flexibility/range of motion
- Decrease spasm/reduce or eliminate pain
- Improve circulation & lymphatic flow and posture
- Enhance nourishment to all cells requiring improved oxygen transfer
- Help relieve muscle tension, pain
Massage Therapy and Stress Reduction
Prolonged periods of stress can subconsciously affect many systems of the body. Stress has been shown to aggravate, or even cause, such problems as heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, memory loss and decreased immune function. Massage therapy is one of the best antidotes for stress. Massage boosts the body’s immune system, which can become compromised from extended periods of stress. Tension can build up in the muscles, causing a decrease in circulation and nutrient delivery to tissues. Manipulation of the soft tissue decreases muscular tension, increases removal of metabolic waste and promotes nutrient delivery to healing tissue. With a therapeutic massage, stress can be significantly reduced. This, in turn, will increase energy, improve your outlook on life, and in the process boost your immune system function.
Whether searching for a way to deal with the stresses of daily life, seeking relief for a medical condition or wanting to maintain health and balance in their lives, more and more Canadians are turning to therapeutic massage.
How it works?
Massage therapy alleviates muscular stiffness, tension and pain while promoting optimum musculoskeletal health. With a variety of hands-on methods, a skilled therapist stretches and loosens muscles and connective tissue, and also greatly improves blood flow to the heart and movement of lymph throughout the body.
The therapist’s hands speed the removal of metabolic waste products resulting from exercise or inactivity, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach the cells and tissues. Sensory receptors in the skin and muscles are rejuvenated bringing new awareness to areas that have felt “cut-off’ by chronic tension. All this contributes to a general sense of well-being.
Who can benefit?
Massage therapy works to enhance physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. In this sense, everyone can benefit from massage therapy.
More specifically, people with certain conditions may optimally benefit from massage treatment. For example:
- Migraine and headache sufferers find tremendous relief and long-term prevention with massage
- Athletes benefit from massage as preparation for competition, relief of soreness afterwards and treatment of injuries such as strains and tendonitis.
- Arthritis sufferers find relief from stiff, achy muscles and joints as well as improvement in muscle and joint health.
Pregnant women find massage relieves back and leg pain as well as other complaints associated with pregnancy.