Health and Fitness

Massage for Respiratory and Abdominal Problems

For coughs and colds, try rhythmic stroking on the chest to soothe the area. Follow this with a gentle neck and face massage, and finish with gentle static pressures on either side of the nose. Catarrh and sinusitis can be relieved with massage using circular pressures at the base of the skull, followed by squeezing the eyebrows, forehead, and base of the nose; finish with gentle strokes down the nose, out to the ears, and down the neck. Chest infections, such as bronchitis, benefit from a full chest massage and, if there is much congestion, concentrate on percussive cupping movements at the base of the lungs. This is often done by physiotherapists to help shift mucus and relieve congestion. For many asthma sufferers there is a family history of the disease and it is often associated with other allergic problems such as eczema. Triggers include allergens such as pollen and house dust mites, but stress and anxiety can aggravate attacks. Gentle massage can really help if done on a regular basis, and may even prevent or at least reduce the severity of asthma attacks.

Massage For Aches and Pains

Of all medical problems massage is probably most renowned for helping back pain, stiff neck and shoulders, and general aches and pains. Although the aging process contributes to some of these problems, many can be avoided by simple lifestyle changes such as improving posture, taking more exercise, drinking more water, and eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. Massage for backaches and pains Back pain is one of the most commonly experienced problems, causing more days off work than any other physical symptom. Massage can help relax stiff muscles, locate and loosen areas of tension, and ease stress, which is often a factor in back pain. Helpful treatments for back pain, covered elsewhere in this book, include kneading, skin rolling, firm pressures, Chinese massage, Thai massage, shiatsu, and reflexology. Massage for other aches and pains Aches and pains become increasingly common with age, and for many elderly people the pain, swelling, and stiffness of arthritis and rheumatism is a sad fact of life.

Massage For Stress Related Problems

At every opportunity throughout this book I have talked about how incredible massage can be in the management of stress. Approximately one third of absences from work can be attributed to the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression, so it is in everybody's interest to deal with stress as quickly as possible. However, not all stress is bad since we need a certain amount to give our lives zest and excitement. Its only when demands made on us become too great that we suffer the negative aspects of stress and then seem unable to cope. There is a strong link between stress and illness: it affects the immune system, making people more vulnerable to infection; it is related to high blood pressure and heart disease; it can cause headaches and backache; and there are even suggestions that there may be a link with cancer, due to the effects of stress on the immune system. So by relieving stress not only will you feel better, but you are also reducing your chances of developing other problems in the future.

Massage in The Workplace

A rapidly increasing number of companies all over the world a realizing the benefits of massage and are heeding the call to provide massage therapy on site. Stress costs employers enormous amounts of money every year. Millions of workers are absent every workday due to stress related complaints. Numerous surveys confirm that workers perceive that they are under much more stress than ever before. Firms are curbing employee stress and absenteeism by offering heavily subsidized or even free massage treatment actually in the workplace. Increasing levels of competition and the pressure to succeed contribute to the stress in the workplace, which can have disastrous effects on our health. It is most unfortunate that so many individuals are dissatisfied with their jobs. This is hardly surprising in cases where the work environment is artificially lit, poorly ventilated, noisy and cramped. If the work is repetitive and boring and requires no skill this will also create a poor image of work. Since a major part of our life centres around our work we need to find a balance, combat our stress and enjoy our work.

Position for Massage

Ask your partner to sit comfortably on a stool or a chair, ideally with a reasonably low back. The receiver should take off their shoes, loosen any tight clothing, uncross their legs and relax. If a cushion is available place it on the receiver's lap so that he/she can place their hands lightly on it. You stand behind the receiver. Try to keep your back straight and distribute your weight evenly between your feet. Make sure that your neck and shoulders are relaxed and bend your knees slightly. Making contact - To establish a connection between you and the receiver place your hands lightly onto the shoulders. Ask him/her to take a few deep breaths, allowing all the stress and tension to dissolve. Upper back - effleurage Place both hands, one either side of the spine, on the upper back at the level of the bottom of the shoulder blades. Gently at first and then more firmly stroke up the back around the shoulder blades and back down again. Repeat until you feel the area starting to warm up.

Massage Technique - Effleurage or Stroking

Description Effleurage (stroking) is one of the principal movements of massage and may be performed on any area of the body. It signals the beginning and the end of a massage both preceding and succeeding all other strokes and facilitating the flow from one movement to the next. Initially, it enables the giver to distribute the oil evenly on to the receiver's body. Use the palms of both hands as you glide over the surface of the skin moulding your hands to the contours of the body. You should keep as much of the hands as possible in contact with the body. The receiver experiences one continuous movement as you apply firm rhythmic pressure on the upward stroke yet glide downwards to your starting point with a featherlight touch. Maintain an even rhythm and avoid jerky movements at all times. Pressure can be superficial or deep according to the effect required. Close your eyes as you effleurage to accentuate and heighten your sensitivity and sense of touch. Experiment with different depths of pressure.

Massage Technique - Friction

Description Friction movements normally make use of the balls of the thumbs (although the fingertips, knuckles or even the elbows may be used). The muscle is moved against the bone by small circular movements of the balls of the thumbs. Stand directly over the area to be treated and use your body weight to penetrate right down into the deeper tissues - the human body is not as delicate and fragile as you might imagine. This stroke is particularly effective when performed on either side of the spine. If your thumbs are not aching by the time you reach the neck area you are not performing the stroke correctly! Benefits This technique is particularly useful for breaking down the knots and nodules that build up in the body due to the stresses and strains of daily life. Any accumulated waste products may be eliminated. Friction helps to break down the fatty deposits and is therefore of benefit in cases of obesity. Friction is very effective around a well-healed scar to break down adhesions and is also used to massage around bony prominences such as the patella (knee cap).

Massage Technique - Petrissage

Description This stroke referred to as petrissage (derived from 'petrir' meaning 'to knead'). Petrissage can be subdivided into picking up, wringing, squeezing and rolling. If you are good at kneading dough then you will quickly become an expert! It is an extremely powerful and vigorous movement, which enables you to work deeply on the muscles. You may apply it to every area of the body, except for the face, and it is effective on the fleshy areas such as the hips and thighs. In picking-up, place your hands flat on the part being treated and grasp the muscle (not the skin) firmly with one or both hands, then pull it as far away as possible from the bone. Once you have picked up the muscle you may squeeze it gently. Squeezing is particularly effective in alleviating muscle spasm. You may now roll the muscle in both directions - your thumbs may roll the muscle towards your fingers or your fingers may roll the muscle towards your thumbs. Wringing is a variation on picking-up. It is picking-up with a twist!

Massage Technique - Percussion Movements or Tapotement

Description Percussion movements (tapotement) involve a series of light, brisk, striking actions applied with alternate hands in rapid succession. Two of the main percussion strokes are cupping and hacking; they may be performed on many areas of the body, although they are especially effective when used on fleshy and large muscular areas of the body such as the thighs. Other tapotement movements include flicking, beating and pounding. When performing tapotement movements the action originates from the wrists and not from the elbows or shoulders, which remain still throughout. Many beginners make the mistake of practising percussion movements from the elbows and shoulders, resulting in frustration and clumsiness. Cupping is performed with your palms facing downwards, forming a hollow curve. It is sometimes known as 'clapping'. As you bring your cupped hands down on to the body in quick succession, a vacuum is created which is released when you bring your hands up. The sound should be hollow like a horse trotting.

Massage Technique - Vibration and Shaking

Description Vibration is a fine, gentle trembling movement of the tissues which is performed by your hand or fingers. Shaking is a large: movement performed more vigorously. To perform vibration place the palmar surface of your hand on the part of the body or the limb to be treated. Vibrate the entire muscle area rapidly. The movement may either be gentle, in which case it is known as 'vibration', or vigorous, which is referred to as 'shaking'. Gentle vibration can be performed using just the fingertips along the course of a nerve. Benefits Vibration along the course of a nerve is helpful for restoring and maintaining the functions of a nerve and the muscles supplied by them, thereby improving their nutrition. It is particularly useful in cases of paralysis or where there is loss of nerve power. Vibrating and shaking can be performed on the abdominal area to aid digestion and relieve flatulence. It can be used to promote tone in the colon and to combat constipation. Vibration and shaking over the thoracic area and chest is particularly beneficial for respiratory problems such as asthma, sometimes in combination with the tapotement movements.

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