Health Encyclopedia

Massage

What is massage?

Picture of a massage therapist giving a deep-tissue massage

Rubbing areas that hurt is a natural human response. Even other mammals do this. Massage is based on the same principle of rubbing and manipulating muscles.

Massage is found to be helpful both physically and emotionally. The rubbing not only soothes sore muscles but the mind as well.

Massage therapy has been found to assist in the treatment of:

  • Back pain

  • Anxiety

  • High blood pressure

  • Migraine headache

  • Carpal tunnel symptoms

  • Postoperative pain

  • Side effects of cancer and cancer therapy

Massaging muscles and soft tissue stimulates nerves, increases blood flow and relieves stress in the muscles. Over the centuries, many massage techniques have developed including:

  • Swedish massage. This massage technique involves the use of long, smooth strokes, strokes that knead and compress, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping.

  • Oriental massage. This technique is very gentle and relaxes a person.

  • Shiatsu. This Japanese form of massaging is actually a form of acupressure, exerting massaging pressure on certain key points of the body.

  • Thai massage. This massage technique also involves the use of yoga and certain Chinese traditional medicine methods.

Massages are usually given in a quiet room, with soothing background music. A person usually lies down on a special massage table or in a special massage chair called seated massage. Massage uses a group of manual techniques, consisting of both fixed and moveable pressure.

In 43 states and the District of Columbia massage therapy is regulated by law with specific guidelines. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) has set up standards of practice and also administers a national certification examination. It is used in 38 of those states and the District of Columbia as a requirement to practice.

In order to become nationally certified to practice massage therapy, a practitioner must:

  • Complete a minimum of 500 hours of instruction

  • Demonstrate mastery of core skills, abilities, and knowledge

  • Pass a standardized NCBTMB exam

  • Uphold NCBTMB's Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics