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Massage Defined

What is massage?

The word Massage is a derivation from the Greek massein, or the French masser, which both mean to knead. A male operator is called a masseur, a female operator, a masseuse.

Massage is the instinctive human response that when we bump ourselves that we rub it and the 'ouch' soon goes away. This basic instinct has been slowly developed over the countless generations into a sophisticated healing art and science.

Massage is an age-old healing art which can alleviate all physical, mental and emotional ailments. It's likely that the first peoples rubbed their bodies to make them feel better and we have documented historical references going back to the Chinese and Egyptians as far back as 3000 BC. There are also references in the bible referring to anointing the body with oil and in 460 BC, Hypocrites who is thought of as the father of modern medicine prescribed it as a beneficial treatment for his patients.

In one form or another, it developed in all the nations of the old World. Hippocrates further said that all physicians should have experience of the techniques of rubbing as it is recognised that rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose and loosen a joint that is too rigid. Furthermore, rubbing can make the flesh strong and cause parts to waste, it is these latter beliefs that are so important for those concerned with figure improvement. In 1813, the Royal Central Institute was established in Stockholm, Sweden, and here the known massage movements were studied scientifically and systematised. This was the most important single development in the field in modern times and it is because of this that massage practised in Western countries is often called "Swedish".


Massage is a scientific method of manipulating the soft tissues of the body to have specific effect. Its objective is the restoration of function, release of tension and the re-establishment of the contours where this is desirable.

Massage Therapy is:

  • The holistic application of physical touch to affect the systems of the body; ie. the muscular, skeletal, digestive, elimination, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, endocrine, emotional, mental and nervous systems.
  • It is the manipulation the soft tissues of the body with the hands for therapeutic, healing, relaxing and pleasurable effects.
  • It is the loving touch of the heart expressed through the hands.
  • It is not physiotherapy or any practice of manipulation of the skeletal structure.


There are many different approaches and applications to massage.

  • Swedish Massage, a general whole body massage using oils on the skin to facilitate treatment. This is the basis of all Western forms of massage treatment.
  • Shiatsu, with this Japanese style you generally stay dressed and are treated on the floor. This system balances all bodily systems.
  • Deep Tissue, this approach is powerful and often painful although the benefits can be great. It is helpful in restructuring the body, improving posture.
  • Holistic Pulsing, clothes on, you are gently rocked, the rocking or pulsing releasing tension.
  • Sensual Massage usually both the client and therapist are naked and there is usually some sexual arousal. This is excellent for couples to help develop intimacy.
  • Tantric Massage usually a sensual massage whereby the therapist assists you to understand and control or re-direct energy. A basic understanding and acceptance of the human aura and energy centres is advisable before taking this treatment (although some therapists within the sex industry use this term for sensual - sexual massage without any real knowledge of what tantra is, as it is a trendy concept). With a qualified therapist it can be of great benefit toward liberation of body, mind and spirit.
  • Aroma therapy, the use of naturally occurring essential oils to enhance treatment. Often used as a treatment in themselves with different oils being applied to different parts of the body. Pure essential oils have great healing properties and we will have some pages on them in the near future.
  • Reflexology
    A stylised massage to the feet
  • In all there are hundreds of recognized styles of massage.


Massage Therapy helps relaxation, releasing stress and tension in our bodies.

Too much unresolved stress in our lives can cause constant muscular tension. This tension or tightness reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles and organs and also restricts nerve & lymph supply. Tension creates a tendency for a build up of toxins in the body, and reduces the flow of the more subtle energy or life force (Prana or Chi). Tension can lead to symptomatic feelings of fatigue, heaviness, aches and pains, tightness of muscles and stiffness. Muscular stress can increase the likelihood of strains and injuries. Muscular stress also distorts the skeletal structure which further compounds existing problems and creates new ones.


The following are some of the beneficial results that you can receive from massage treatments:

  • Improve circulation Increase blood circulation and the flow of tissue fluid (lymph)
  • Improve lymphatic drainage
  • Help breathing Stimulate breathing Assist the flow of nutrients &∓ oxygen to tissues
  • Lower the heart and pulse rate
  • Detoxify the body systems Hasten excretion or waste products
  • Assist weight loss
  • Nourish the skin (with the right oils) Promote nourishment, repair and renewal of body cells
  • Assist in removal of deposits of tissue
  • Stimulate activity in skin and its glands
  • Improve muscle tone Induce muscle tone
  • Soothe and relax nerves
  • Relieve Stress
  • Release emotional tension
  • Relieve pain in certain conditions
  • Relax mind and body deeply
  • Give pleasure
  • Create a feeling of well-being.


Are situations where it is advisable to be cautious about having massage treatment. Conditions such as: Acute inflammation, redness, swelling, marked breathing difficulty, fever, skin rash, Varicose veins. If you have any of these conditions or other concerns, check with your therapist at the time of booking your treatment.

Massage Therapy is a safe and effective treatment which benefits people of all ages and conditions.

An Introduction to Massage Therapy By Mary Beth Braun and Stephanie J. Simonson

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