What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy is a form of alternative medicine recognized around the world that can treat people suffering from stress, fatigue, anxiety and aid in recovery from injuries. Massage therapy is considered a form of alternative medicine by most health professionals, but that opinion is quickly changing as the value of massage for its health benefits is quickly being recognized as a free medicine.

As mentioned before, massage therapy can be used to relieve stress, fatigue and anxiety; all of which are experienced by people at some point during their working lives. Massage therapy can aid in rehabilitation from injuries such as strains, sprains, muscle tears, and surgery. In some cases, the right form of massage is more effective than strong drugs, and in all cases, massage is healthier than pharmaceutical drugs.

How does it work and what are its effective applications?

The effect of massage and how it works differs depending on the type of treatment received, with two main categories of massage namely therapeutic massage and remedial massage. Therapeutic massage is also called Swedish massage. This technique uses long, slow movements with varying depths of pressure to create a sense of relaxation and enhanced well-being. This is done to relieve the feelings of stress and anxiety, improve circulation, relieve congestion by loosening soft tissue and help create a positive mood for the client. Often, essential oils are used in conjunction with Swedish massage to enhance the beneficial effects of the treatment, where oils such as lavender and ginger are either burned in a vaporizer or mixed with the massage oil to help the client relax.

Therapeutic massage is ideally suited to those who regularly suffer from stress and anxiety and is a great way to enhance the experience of a vacation for those who travel.

Remedial Massage encompasses a very wide range of techniques such as Deep Tissue Massage, Acupressure, Cross Fiber Mobilization and much, much more. These specific techniques are designed to target problem areas of the body that are causing a lot of trouble or distress, such as back pain, frozen shoulder, sciatica, and more. Remedial massage is used to break down muscle adhesions and scar tissue, which in turn will restore proper function of muscles and limbs. Virtually all available massage techniques use a fairly firm pressure that is normally quite uncomfortable.

A common misconception among therapists and clients is the idea that remedial treatment has to hurt or be painful to be beneficial. Fortunately for the customer, this is not the case.

Simply put, in a way that anyone can understand and that is,  pain is the body’s way of telling you, “You’ve gone too far!”

No massage treatment should ever hurt, but it can be uncomfortable at times.

Requirements for Massage Therapists

Now we must remember that it is possible for anyone to advertise massage services, even without the proper education or qualifications. The truth is that there are no laws that prevent this, as there are laws that prevent unqualified people from working as electricians or plumbers. One of the fundamental parts of being a massage therapist is understanding physical conditions such as injuries and illnesses. Failure to recognize these conditions and failure to implement effective and safe treatment could potentially lead to further injury or illness to the client, which should be avoided. In this regard, it is important to understand your therapist’s level of education and how to recognize your body’s needs.

Never be afraid to ask your therapist about their level of education and qualifications, after all, your health and safety is in their hands.

That said, in my opinion there are certain qualities that a therapist needs to perform good treatments. Of course, these properties differ per treatment that you need. Do you need a strong restorative massage to loosen your limbs, restore mobility and improve physical condition or do you prefer a relaxing therapeutic massage to calm your body emotionally and physically? From my own personal experience there is a rather significant factor that determines the quality of a healing massage and a therapeutic massage.

Restorative massage :

I have always found that therapists with an athletic history tend to provide a more effective form of exercise massage than therapists who have never had an interest in sports. Why this is the case I can’t say exactly, but I think it could be due to the therapist’s personal sports experience with injuries, fatigue, muscle stiffness, pain and possibly his own experience of receiving exercise therapy and/or physical therapy . This personal experience they have built up over the years can give a better understanding of a client’s needs and they can provide the right treatment your body needs.

Therapeutic massage :

As a very active massage therapist, I enjoy my job and helping other people find the treatment they need, but I also enjoy getting massages on a regular basis. While I recognize the benefits of a restorative massage, I personally prefer a relaxing therapeutic massage. Therapeutic massage is very soothing and is a great way to relax, unwind and de-stress. While therapists from athletic backgrounds are able to provide quite effective relaxing massages, it’s not what I would consider their forte. I have found that spiritual people who believe in a balance between body and soul give the most relaxing massages because they seem to be able to connect with how you are feeling physically and mentally while receiving your treatment.

While each massage category is better suited to certain personality traits in my opinion, this is not necessarily true in all cases. Sometimes you will find a therapist who is skilled, talented and/or experienced in both areas of massage and able to deliver treatments that are astonishing. Sometimes you come across therapists who are a bit accustomed to the treatment they perform, but still go out of their way to give you what you need.

Ultimately, the quality of massage comes down to one thing that also determines any job and that is  Passion  .

A therapist passionate about their job will always provide great treatment regardless of their own experience.

Daniel Johansson is an accredited massage therapist and a member of the Massage Association of Australia.