Health & Wellness: Can massage therapy help you?

You might think that massage therapy is a modern trend that natural healing practitioners are pushing. That’s partially true. The medical benefits of massage therapy are certainly being touted these days, but it’s not new. Massage therapy is part of a traditional holistic system of healing methods that began about 5,000 years ago.
The history of massage therapy dates back to 3000 BCE (or earlier) in India, where it was considered a sacred system of natural healing. Used by Hindus in Ayurveda “life health” medicine, massage therapy was a practice passed down through generations to heal injuries, relieve pain, and prevent and cure illnesses. Promoters of Ayurveda believe that illness and disease are caused when people are out of sync with the environment. Massage is believed to restore the body’s natural and physical balance so that it can heal naturally.
Fast forward hundreds of years to the early 1800s when Swedish doctor/gymnast/teacher Per Henrik Ling created a method that became known as the Swedish Movement Cure to help relieve chronic pain. As much medical gymnastics as massage therapy, it was the precursor to what we now know as Swedish massage — a style that involves stroking, pressing, squeezing and striking.
Whereas Ling’s method used massage in his movements, 19th-Century Dutchman Johan George Mezger is credited with incorporating techniques that are used today:

  • Effleurage, which uses long, gliding strokes from the extremities inward at various levels of pressure.
  • Petrissage, a technique that is rhythmic and may include kneading, skin rolling, lifting or a push-pull movement.
  • Tapemotement, a beating/tapping administered with the side of the hand, a cupped hand or fingertips used in Swedish massage.
  • Friction, a technique that is physically demanding, consisting of deep, circular or crosswise movements with the thumbs, fingertips, palms or elbows, designed to penetrate deep tissue.
    Fast forward again to today and you can see where massage has taken us. There are literally dozens of different massage disciplines from various cultures around the world although most have been derived from the essential basics of Swedish massage.
    Here in Palm Coast there are a number of practitioners of the art of massage and we recently visited with two of them, Sophia Mascarella and Christine Brinker, who work out of a space in the West Point office complex on Palm Coast Parkway.
    Both women practice massage but both have their individual preferences when it comes to exactly how they treat their clients based on their years of experience (they’ve both been involved with massage for many years) and the clients’ needs.
    Christine, for example, does more in the way of muscle balancing which is designed to counteract harmful muscle imbalances that result in poor body posture. With the repetitiveness of occupation and daily activities, pain occurs due to imbalances created by overuse of certain muscles and under use of others.
    Sophia, on the other hand, characterizes herself as someone who works more with deep-tissue techniques. Both work with clients that have ongoing issues and Sophia also specializes in helping people recover from accidents and other physical ailments.
    One thing that both stress when working with clients is the need for good communication between them and their clients. Always maintaining a comfort level for the client in terms of how much force is used is one of the issues that is always important. And getting feedback from the client before every session helps the therapist to assess the progress that is being made in the case of a rehabilitation effort or the increase in overall well-being resulting from continuous treatments.
    How do you pick a massage therapist that’s right for you? After speaking with these two women in detail about how they structure their treatments for clients it became obvious that there is a factor that’s important and that shouldn’t overlooked and that’s compatibility between the therapist and client. Some people will naturally feel more comfortable with some therapists more than others for any number of reasons. Personality may play a role as well as perhaps the physical surroundings themselves.
    One important thing to remember is that without the client being completely relaxed, the treatments will probably not be as effective so this is not something to be overlooked if you are going to start massage therapy. So just finding someone you feel comfortable with is a good first step in choosing a therapist.
    And after you start any treatments it should become obvious soon whether or not your program is working for you. And with both of these experienced therapists, adjustments and tweaks to your specific regimen will be made as needed as you progress over time.
    Is massage right for what ails you? Or if nothing in particular ails you will massage just make you feel better as you go about your everyday routines? There’s one sure way to find out.