The gift of touch Essay

This essay has a total of 2135 words and 10 pages.

The gift of touch

The gift of touch



Touch is as essential to a healthy and happy life as eating right, getting proper sleep,
and exercising. With the world growing more technological, the need for healthy human
contact is more important than ever. Massage and body therapies are an age old healing
refuge for us in this fast-paced, stressed-out world. The practice of massage therapy is
rapidly growing in the United States. It has so much to offer and is becoming more widely
accepted by doctors and the general public. Massage is touching another person by such
movements as rubbing, kneading, pressing, rolling, slapping, and tapping. This type of
therapy provides circulation of the blood and lymph, relaxation of muscles, relief from
pain, restoration of metabolic balance, and many other benefits both physical and mental.
There is much historical evidence to indicate that massage is one of the earliest remedies
for pain relief and for the restoration of a healthy body. It is said to be the most
natural and instinctive means of relieving pain and discomfort. Massage has proven to be
an effective method for treating many conditions for thousands of years and it will
continue to be used for thousands of years to come. Massage therapy is a great treatment
for the body and soul.

The roots of massage can be traced back to ancient civilizations. In the book titled The
Complete Book of Massage by Clare Maxwell-Hudson she illustrates that much evidence has
been found to support the belief that prehistoric people massaged their muscles and even
rubbed oils on their bodies(8). The history of massage probably begins before we could
properly call ourselves human. We instinctively rub a pain or an ache, we instinctively
stroke a bruise. We use touch in healing without thinking about it, which suggests that
it's very, very old. Some form of massage was practiced in almost all early civilizations;
Ancient Chinese, Japanese, India, Hindu, Greek, and Roman civilizations to name a few
(Maxwell-Hudson 8).In the The Bodywork and Massage Sourcebook by Andrew and Valerie Levine
they write about how, "Julius Caesar, who suffered from epilepsy, had himself pinched all
over and massaged on a daily basis"(12).


Massage has been a major part of medicine for at least five thousand years and a important
figure in developing massage technics is Per Henrik Ling. In the early part of the
nineteenth century, Ling, a physiologist and fencing master from Sweden developed and
systemized movements that he found to be beneficial in improving physical conditions
(Levine 46) And a massage technic is born, although he had interesting and debatable
theories for his time they proved to be true. "He laid great emphasis on medical
gymnastics and massage, and classified his treatments as passive or gymnastics movements,
pressure, friction, vibration, percussion or rotation"(Maxwell-Hudson 9). Lings research
helped break the already underling truth that massage can be a beneficial. "Ling's
influence has lasted, and massage is still frequently referred to as Swedish
massage"(Maxwell-Hudson 9).


There are many types of massage therapy and many benefits. Some advantages are increased
circulation; stretching of muscle tissue, and loosening of scar tissue, as well as
indirect effects such as reduced blood pressure, and the general relaxation of muscles.
Massage therapy offers benefits in four major ways: the muscular system, the nervous
system, the circulatory system, and psychologically. Massage enhances nutrition and
development of the muscular system by stimulating its circulation, nerve supply, and cell
activity. In general, it relaxes and refreshes muscles. Muscle tissue that has been
injured will also heal more readily and with fewer complications when a therapeutic
massage is applied as it prevents, or breaks down the formation of scar tissue. Massage
also eases the pain of an injury to a ligament or tendon by diffusing the inflammation an
injury would cause. Because of the benefits massage therapy offers the muscular system,
massage is an effective means of improving muscle tone as well as muscle stamina and
strength. Massage will help to relieve, or even prevent, muscle cramps or spasms. In an
interview with Donald Woodward a massage therapist he states, "The nervous system can be
stimulated or soothed depending on the type of massage applied" Massage stimulates the
nerve endings in the skin and muscle tissue. As easily as massage can stimulate a nerve,
it can bring about a sedative effect to the nervous system. Massage can induce deep
relaxation and even relieve insomnia. A therapeutic massage effects the quality and
quantity of blood flowing through the circulatory system. An increase in blood flow causes
an increase in the blood supply and the nutrients that muscles and other vital organs
receive. Massage eases the strain on the heart by helping to push blood toward the heart.
It also improves the blood-making process, resulting in an increase in the number of red
and white blood cells. Because of the benefits a massage offers to the circulatory system,
it can eliminate swelling in the extremities.

The psychological effects of massage can not be underestimated. Massage relieves mental
fatigue by oxidizing and removing toxins from the body. "Many people who suffer from
stress find that massage promotes both mental and muscular relaxation"(Woodward). Overall,
massage helps to create a greater sense of self-awareness and well being.

The psychological effects of massage should not he underestimated. In treatment. centers
for addictions, massage has proven to be an effective therapeutic tool to rebuild a more
positive self-image and sense of self-worth. People have regular massages as much for
psychological as for physical benefits. (The psychological effects of massage 1)


There are many different types of massage that are used in order to obtain a desired
outcome. The most commonly used massage is known as Swedish massage. "People thinking of
getting a massage for the first time usually opt for a Swedish massage" (Levine 45). It is
a collection of techniques that are designed to relax muscles, increase circulation,
remove metabolic waste products, and help the recipient obtain the Swedish system
emphasizes applying pressure against muscles and rubbing in the same direction as the flow
of blood returning to the heart. Swedish Massage can help reduce emotional and physical
stress and is often used in stress management programs.

Another type of massage is Shiatsu. Shiatsu is more than acupressure. "Like acupuncture
and other Asian medical practices, shiatsu works with the body's energy system. The Asian
concept of energy can be loosely understood as ""vitality"" or ""vital force"", which we
cannot see but can sense or feel"(Sutton PAGE #?????). Shiatsu is a combination of many
different techniques including pressing, hooking, sweeping, shaking, rotating, grasping,
vibrating, patting, plucking, lifting, pinching, rolling and brushing. Shiatsu is viewed
in some cases as a form of treatment alternative to medicine or surgery. We use massage
instinctively. If we bruise an elbow we rub it, if our stomachs hurt we rub them. Parents
instinctively hold and stroke their children to calm and reassure them. Touch is a
fundamental part of our being. And massage is touch.


Closely related to Shiatsu is Polarity Therapy, it asserts that energy fields exist
everywhere in the body and that the flow and balance of this energy in the human body is
the underlying foundation of health.

Reflexology is based on the belief that there are points on the hands and feet that
correspond to other parts of the body and that the manipulation of one of these points
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