What is massage?
Massage is promoted by touch, it is moving the body tissues, manipulating superficial and deeper layers of muscles and connective tissues. This can affect all body systems - musculoskeletal, nervous, cardiovascular, lymphatic/immune, skin, respiratory, digestive and urinary systems.
Holistic massage uses the massage techniques of Swedish massage, effleurage, petrissage, friction, vibration, tapotement/percussion and other additional techniques such as holding, compression, trigger points, passive movements (passive stretches, joint mobilisation), myofascial release, scar tissue release.
Meaning of 'holistic' massage
Holistic massage is an individual treatment that is specifically tailored to each client. A Holistic practitioner treats the client as a whole, taking into account their physical, physiological and emotional body. A Holistic therapist works with the client rather than just giving a massage to them.
To the muscles, joints, connective tissues and organs we refer to as the physical body.
To the chemical processes, the body biology and biochemistry we refer to as the physiological body.
To the mental health and its effect on the body through emotions we refer to as the emotional body.
We cannot separate one from the other. A holistic approach is to not ignore one body function, only focusing on the other. Therefore holistic treatments are often powerful, and more effective compared to selective approach therapies.
The response of massage on the body systems
Specific soft tissue release techniques addressing muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia relieve tightness, stiffness, spasms in the local massaged area as well as in other areas of the body connected via the kenetic chains.
Oxygen and nutrients can be delivered to the muscle more effectively and the muscle function can be improved.
Joint manipulations may facilitate the production of synovial fluid (fluid in the joint capsule needed for lubrication, waste removal and nutrients supply) in an under-used joint or over-used joint. This can ease the pain of the joints and improve the movement of the joint. Local massage around the fracture may decrease the forming of the scar tissue.
Inflammation due to an injury or applied continues pressure can be aided by all of the above.
Deep massage may flatten out adipose (fatty) tissue in the skin temporarily (cellulite, wrinkles). Restrictions and thickening in connective tissue - fascia (cover of the muscle), tendons and ligaments may be relieved. Massage can reduce the forming of scar tissue in fascia affecting the muscle function.
Specific massage which relaxes and soothes the nervous system may decrease anxiety, perceived pain (by releasing natural painkillers in the body - endorphins and neurochemicals) and improve sleep. Trigger point techniques relieve localised pain by improving fluid circulation in that area.
Draining and deep effleurage assists venous flow locally by mechanically pushing blood through the veins. Specific massage techniques can increase superficial (near the surface) blood circulation. Both of these facilitate the delivery of oxygen and nutrients and removal of metabolic waste. Dilation of the capillaries temporarily decreases blood pressure. As a sympathetic (the autonomic nervous system responsible for 'fight or flight' response, regulating stress) nervous system activity decreases the heart rate drops.
Massage mechanically stimulates lymph flow ducts and improves the circulation of the lymph through nodes. There is some evidence that massage facilitates the production of white blood cells and therefore have the ability to fight infection. Lymphatic massage decreases sympathetic nervous system activity and as levels of cortisol (stress hormone) drop, allergic and inflammatory responses are restored.
Lymphatic massage is recommended pre and post surgery to redistribute body fluids, drain stagnant body fluids. Lymphatic massage is the first aid for injuries, but can also assist a chronic, reocurring pain.
We can aid the lymphatic system by practising deep diaphragmatic breathing, movement, healthy hydration and by manual lymphatic drainage.
Specific massage may increase superficial circulation, stimulates sebaceous glands and improves skin texture and tone. The rise in skin temperature results in improved evaporation of sweat from the surface, and removal of wastes. Certain massage techniques can reduce the formation of keloid and scarring in soft tissue.
Massage therapy decreases sympathetic nervous system activity and respiratory rate slows. Massage of intercostal (ribs) muscles and diaphragm attachments and other muscles that aid respiration can improve ribcage mobility and the mechanics of breathing. Specific massage techniques on the ribcage can loosen phlegm. Combined massage therapy and bodywork (NKT, ID core functional movement drills) can be extremely helpful in restoring intrinsic core function.
Relaxing massage decreases sympathetic nervous system activity and improves digestive functioning. Specific massage on the abdomen may alleviate constipation mechanically.
Further focus on the diaphragmatic breathing, a breathing diaphragm activation will aid the digestive system as well as deep circulation, lymphatic drainage, cardiovascular health and immune responses.
Therapeutic massage therapy decreases the sympathetic nervous system function and improves urine output.
Massage techniques explained
One or both hands are in contact with the body, there is none or only minimal movement and minimal pressure.
I am using this technique usually at the beginning and also at the end of the massage. It is the first contact with the body, gentle and relaxing - building trust and relaxed atmosphere between me and my client. It is saying hello or goodbye to the body.
Stroking, feathering, light effleurage, light vibration
Strokes that engage the skin subcutaneous tissue (superficial fascia, capillaries and lymphatic vessels).
These techniques relax the body and slowly prepare the body tissues for a deeper massage if needed.
Deep effleurage, petrissage, kneading, compression, trigger points
Strokes that engage the muscles, rhythmical compression and release of the tissues. These techniques relax the muscles, can stretch the muscles and connective tissue, slowly releasing tension and improving fluid flow in and around the muscles and surrounding tissues. They will also make possible to work further on the area safely and deeper if needed.
Skin rolling, connective tissue massage, friction
Techniques that address to connective tissue - deep massage.
I use these techniques only if they are needed for a specific issue of my client or if my client wishes to receive deep tissue massage. I keep in mind my client's health. In some cases, deep tissue massage is not advised and can't be applied (different health conditions).
Percussion - hacking, cupping, tapping, pummelling
Strokes that use repeated rhythmical light striking and affect the skin, connective tissue and muscles.
Passive movements - stretching, shaking, rocking, joint mobilisation
Techniques that involve the movement of muscles in relation to bones or joints, or joints relation to the torso. The structures engaged are the muscles and joints.