The history of Massage as a practice of healing is ancient and wise, as the ones who came before us have written. But how do we view this healing art today in the new millennium? I believe the focus should be placed on two words, healing and art. Healing gives us a sense of medical necessity. We suffer from pain, tension and stress and seek to make ourselves feel better. Massage therapy can be beneficial for chronic symptoms as well as the acute that come over us quickly, sharply. A woman feels a sharp pain in her low back as she picks her child up from the floor, a runner receives a crippling cramp in his lower leg while sprinting towards the finish line, or the man that grabs at his shoulder as the lawn mower propels forward before he lets go. All of these people are going to have the same instant reaction. They will place their hand on the affected area and begin to massage the area they feel the most pain. The healing begins. And for those that believe in the power of massage, a regular visit to their local therapist can only continue to ease the discomfort of daily life.
In ancient times the benefits of massage were simple, a person in pain would receive massage and then experience relief. Plain and simple. Today we are knowledgeable of the systems within the body and the functions of those systems. We can pinpoint the direct benefits of massage, such as reduced heart rate, lowered blood pressure, increased blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxed muscles, improved range of motion, increased endorphins (reducing pain), and stimulation of weak, inactive muscles compensating for the lack of exercise and inactivity resulting from illness or injury. All modern medical necessities, these are all physical benefits we can expect from regular therapy with massage.
But what about the spiritual or mental benefits of Massage Therapy? Many ancient customs tied in with religion gave Massage Therapy its nuance as an art form. Success of treatments given tended to associate with a religious belief structure, thus early medical treatment and religious ritual were inseparable. For example, in ancient Roman times, Gladiators were massaged with oil to ensure that their muscles were supple and warm before battle began as well as calming their spirit and giving them mental strength. Today in this modern society, we are all gladiators in one way or another. Whether we are battling a competitor in an arena, our bosses at work, or our children (parents of teenagers will agree), the one thing that is certain is the touch of another human in a respectful, caring and therapeutic manner goes a long way in restoring our balance on a mental and spiritual level. That touch could come from a well-deserved handshake of a boss congratulating a job well done, the Pastor of a church placing a caring hand on a shoulder, or the hour we spare for ourselves spent on a massage therapist's table. Any one of these examples provide us with inner peace, tranquility and spiritual balance. A balance necessary in life to face the challenge of modern day battles.