An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist's understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist can help the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training.
Massage used in the medical field includes decongestive therapy used for lymphedema which can be used in conjunction with the treatment of breast cancer. Light massage is also used in pain management and palliative care. Carotid sinus massage is used to diagnose carotid sinus syncope and is sometimes useful for differentiating supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) from ventricular tachycardia. It, like the valsalva maneuver, is a therapy for SVT. However, it is less effective than management of SVT with medications.
Swedish massage is the therapeutic massage standard for much of the Western world. Developed in the 1800s by Pehr Henrik Ling, it incorporates a variety of specific massage techniques to treat sore muscles, tension, stress, and poor circulation. Most Western massage modalities have their origins in in this form, and the majority of massage therapists in the West are trained in it before they learn any other massage techniques. Swedish massage is so ubiquitous that in Europe that it is known as classic massage.
Swedish massage is done with the person covered by a sheet, where each part of the body to be worked on is exposed in turn and then re-covered. The massage practitioners use kneading, stroking, friction, tapping and even shaking motions. Oil is used to reduce or eliminate friction and to facilitate making long, smooth, kneading stokes over the tissue and muscles of the body.
In its Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals, The Official Handbook, updated in August 2000, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) suggests massage therapy can be used successfully in pain management. Some hospitals are including massage therapists in patient care teams to fight pain. Their teams may include a physician, nurses, a nutritionist, a yoga instructor, and a massage therapist. Hospitals are now including massage due to public demand. More research needs to be done to evaluate not only the effectiveness of such teams but to determine which combination of therapies works best for different types of patients and different types of pain.
Deep Tissue massages are designed to focus on a specific problem, usually something along the lines of chronic muscle pain, limited mobility, tennis elbow, etc. Cathy Wong explains that according to Consumer Reports magazine, at least 34,000 people claimed that Deep Tissue massages were more effective in relieving osteoarthritis pain than physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture or over-the-counter drugs. It is also especially effective in easing fibromyalgia pain, usually giving clients an improved range of motion immediately following a treatment.
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Swedish massage uses five basic movements to increase circulation and remove toxins from the muscles. Always working towards the heart, the massage therapist incorporates these techniques into a flowing massage session that leaves the patient physically and emotionally relaxed. The trademark move is Effleurage, long gliding strokes that can be firm or soft, depending on purpose and client. Many therapists start out a session with Effleurage to familiarize themselves with the patient, and then start to bring more pressure to bear for deeper work.
Deep Tissue massage is much more muscle-tissue focused. Specifically for pain relief, deep tissue massages are characterized by much deeper pressure. They’re great for removing knots and breaking up scar tissue, making them a favorite of athletes, as well as those who do manual labor like heavy lifting, farming or repair work. Unlike the Swedish massage that just works on the top layer of muscle, a deep tissue massage works through to get to the deeper layers of muscle tissue.