In spite of Western skepticism, massage therapy has been and is an honored tradition throughout the rest of the world. Ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Japanese, and Arab medical literatures frequently refer to it as a health treatment. It’s been recognized in Europe for a long time and is making a resurgence there. Yet many Americans aren’t even aware of it or are just discovering this therapy.
Debra Davido, a licensed massage therapist (State Medical Board-Ohio) and affiliated with the American Massage Therapy Association, believes that her fellow countrymen (and women) can also benefit from massotherapy as a supplement to other medical techniques.
Older men and women can find relief through some of massotherapy’s physical bebefits, which include improving circulation and stimulating the nervous system. It can also provide relief from fluid retention, contractions, and especially stress. Psychological benefits include being taken care of and self-care due to the body’s positive reaction.
In Ohio, massage therapists are considered to be limited practitioners. In some states the medical board doesn’t oversee licensure-those therapists are viewed as a personal service rather than a medical one.
“In terms of perceived seediness, I suspect that what happened was, as time went by, places that were termed ‘massage parlors’ were really fronts for prostitution,” Davido said. “And unfortunately, since they’re using the same term, we prefer the word ‘massotherapy’ or ‘massage therapy’ to set it apart.”
She recommended that anyone seeking a massage therapist should ask if they’re affiliated with particular associations. “If you’re looking for a legitimate one by phone, remember that the Yellow Pages now has two separate listings: ‘massage’ and ‘massage therapists.’ We’ve been working hard over the years, as a group, to try and make that distinction clear to the public,” she explained.
So what’s the first appointment like? What happens in a massage room?
“When a client comes in for the first time, I sit down with them, and we do a little medical history. They’re also encouraged to ask questions even before the first session and in general. Then we go from there. What I try to do is design a session tailor-made to their needs,” Davido said.
The therapist will leave the massage room while the client undresses, covers him or herself with a towel or a fresh sheet, and relaxes upon a specially-designed table. The client will always be covered, except for the body part or parts being worked on. The room will be warm and quiet, though often soft music can be played if the client desires. The massage therapist will usually use a light oil or lotion on the skin. For some kinds of massage, no lubricant is used and the client remains clothed.
A massage usually begins with a light touch followed by broad, flowing strokes. Gradually, the therapist will intensify the strokes to specific areas.
A specialized technique or therapy for a particular need can be requested, such as:
A Swedish massage is the basic technique that practitioners learn in training. This is the most common massage, used for health and relaxation.
Aromatherapy is a massage with oils to stimulate the offactory and limbic system.
Craniosacral therapy’s a means to assess the body energy to determine its needs. This utilizes the rhythmic flow of spinal fluid to rebalance the system.
Hot Stone therapy is a massage with smooth, heated stones. Stones may also be frozen and used as an ice pack.
LightWave uses an appliance that emits pulsed red and infrared light waves to rejuvenate the skin.
Lypossage is a specialized massage that sculpts the body by reducing cellulite by draining the body of stagnant fluids.
Manual Lymph Drainage is a very specialized process for lymphedema sufferers.
Myofascial works with connective tissue(fascia), often used to heal an injury.
Neuromuscular is a deep massage for the nervous system and muscles. It’s similar to myofascial.
Orthobionomy is a gentle system used to restore balance, alignment, and well-being.
Reflexology’s when the soles of the feet are stimulated to access other body organs.
Shiatsu is an acupressure technique using the concept of acupuncture points and energy meridians (Chinese theory).
Thai Yoga’s an ancient technique rooted in East Indian philosophy. Yoga stretches are used during the massage.
Touch For Health is a means to work with the body circuits: muscle, brain, nerve, lymph, blood, and meridian connection.
When the session is finished, the therapist will leave the room again while the client dresses. The client should allow a moment to reorient him or herself before getting up. A massage on a healthy body feels good, but on a painful injury there may be discomfort. This will lessen noticeably within a few minutes.
“I encourage people to seek out someone else if they’re uncomfortable with a particular therapist, or if the experience was so-so”, Davido said.
Davido serves a range of clients, including the elderly. She recommends that those 65 and older should ask if the therapist has had special training in geriatric massages. Some of Davido’s referrals are from doctors, but most are word-of-mouth.