Massage Therapy- A comprehensive look at the diverse profession of bodywork.
Highly respected massage therapist, Sandra Bennett, who has operated a successful independent practice for many years based in Kona, Hawaii, spoke to Allied Health World to help educate our readers on the different modalities, and philosophical approaches to massage therapy. Sandra explains first-hand what her personal and professional life have been like as an accomplished massage therapist with her own successful practice. Sandra answers many questions frequently asked by aspiring massage therapists, and offers her unique and thoughtful insight into massage therapy as a career.
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What is Massage Therapy?
Massage is one of the most ancient of all the healing arts. Its original inception is known to be thousands of years ago though it would be safe to say that some form of massage existed even before the creation of established modalities. Massage is a very personal and individualized form of bodywork that involves the use of strong and capable hands to physically manipulate skin, muscles, and joints as well as the connective tissues of the body; fascia, ligaments, and tendons. Massage is even more relevant and useful today than it has been through its many years of evolution. New methods or modalities have been developed in more recent years that address the needs of modern man and woman. Massage is so ever evolving and applicable to modern life that in fact 60 of the 80 established modalities have been created in just the past two decades.
Massage therapy can be extremely practical, and in fact necessary, or it can be a simple invigorating luxury. It is used therapeutically to aid in the complete recovery of injury in a way that allows for full range of motion to be restored to an injured area, or it can simply be used as a way to relax and feel better by releasing muscular tension and reducing stress. Few things that are so genuinely good for us feel as good as a massage. Anyone who has ever had a professional massage will attest to the fact that the results are tangible and very real. There is no denying the incredible health benefits, both physically and psychologically, of a good massage performed by a well-trained, capable, and personally vested massage therapist.
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Why do people visit massage therapists?
Depending on the type of practice a massage therapist is involved in, he or she may see very different types of clients for very different reasons. A medical massage therapist whose specialty is therapeutic or rehabilitative massage will most often work with people who have injuries that resulted from auto, work, or sports related accidents. Massage therapists working in hotels and spas, on the other hand, will much less often find themselves working with clients for the express purpose of injury rehabilitation. Hotel and spa based massage therapists will more often see clients who simply want to be pampered and invigorated by enjoying the simple pleasure of a massage.
Even outside a clinical or rehabilitative setting, massage therapists of all kinds will frequently work with clients who have complaints about ongoing aches and pains that may be the result of old injuries that never received treatment. Most all massage therapists will find themselves at some point addressing specific conditions related to injury, whether it is for therapeutic rehabilitation, or to address a decades old neglected injury.
Sandra Bennett explains, “Most of my clients are auto or work comp accidents referred by their physicians. Insurance pays for their massages. About 25% of my clients come for preventative reasons and pay cash; some just want stress relief.”
What are the medically and psychologically recognized benefits of massage?
Massage addresses many fundamental aspects of the human condition far beyond the more obvious benefits of promoting physical health and well-being. Even among certain factions of western medicine, which typically look only to reproducible and physically measurable results for proof of efficacy, there has been an awakening to the psychological, psychophysical, and even emotional benefits that massage can provide. By simply being subjected to touch a person can experience an improved sense of well-being and a heightened awareness of his or her own body. Bodywork has been known to help reduce and eliminate anxiety while boosting the recipient’s self esteem. This would come as no surprise to students and practitioners of psychology who have long recognized the psychophysical connection between the kinds of touch people receive during massage and their psychological and emotional states of being.
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The state of submission and total relaxation that can be achieved in the hands of a skilled massage therapist has also been recognized as being able to reduce stress levels. In some instances this stress-reduction has been shown to be significant enough to lower blood pressure enough to abate hypertension.