Massage is the external manipulation of the structures of the body (such as skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones) with positive intentions of relaxation, or other psychological, or physical benefit to the recipient.
History of Massage
In its simplest form, massage is as old humanity, or perhaps older if one includes its use by other animals before upright homosapiens evolved (the theory of human evolution is not universally accepted).
The earliest known history of massage is associated with Ancient China, where healers used pressure techniques similar to those practised in modern acupressure and shiatsu. Archeology has also established the use of oils on the bodies of Asiatic women. Similarly, various oils and creams believed to be for use on the body have been excavated from Ancient Egyptian Tombs.
There is evidence of the evolution of massage in Europe over the last 2500 years, from Ancient Greece to the modern era. Much was written down during the 17th and 18th centuries when the terminology increased significantly and there was much debate about pressure, direction of motion, patient position, and so on.
Swedish practitioner Peter Henry Ling is famous for founding the 'Swedish' system of massage which includes specific techniques and associated terminology including the modern terms "effleurage" and "petrissage". Massage did not become a respectable or reputable practice until the 19th century.
In 1894 a group of women formed "The Society of Trained Masseuses", that eventually became "The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy", which still exists today : www.csp.org.uk.
What does a Massage Treatment involve?
A massage treatment usually begins with a consultation during which the practitioner asks the person who has requested the treatment a series of questions about how he or she is feeling and about the person's medical history and any medical conditions. This is an opportunity for the therapist to ensure that there are no reasons why it would not be adviseable for that person to have a massage that day (e.g. if feeling unwell, perhaps due to onset of flu/measles/mumps/ etc.) and also if the treatment should not include or, conversely, concentrate on any particular parts of the body. This is also an opportunity for the person who wants to receive the massage to ask any questions that he or she might have about massage, to make any requests, and understand exactly what to expect of the treatment.
Assuming all is well, the massage therapist will then invite the client to make him or herself comfortable on the therapeutic couch. She might help the person to get onto the couch if that is necessary and appropriate.
The actual massage will vary according to the reason for the treatment and the person's preference. For example, a deeply relaxing treatment might be requested immediately before bedtime or, conversely, a stimulating massage might be required prior to warming-up for a sporting event.
Following the massage itself, the therapist might invite the person to get up slowly when he or she feels ready to do so. It is good practice for the therapist to ensure that the client is sufficiently alert to move onto his or her next task, which might be to drive home. The therapist might also invite feedback about the treatment, answer any questions, and encourage the client to drink a glass of water immediately afterwards.
Textbooks and other sources of information
There are many excellent textbooks to aid the study of those intending to become professional massage therapists. The "Mind, Body & Spirit", or "Holistic" sections of most major bookshops also include a selection of non-technical books written to guide interested lay people who would like to share an enjoyable skill with their partner and / or friends and family.
See books about massage and related books about baby massage, Indian head massage books, aromatherapy books and also hot stones massage books. Excellent texts are also available on the subject of massage media including carrier oils and base creams.
Further Information about Massage
Introductory massage courses are available from many local colleges. For a personal introduction to this subject and to meet like-minded people who have similar interests find out what is available in your area.