Written by Jerry Lau and Tommy Li
It's Friday night and your body is already exhausted. You think of laying down and having long hours of sleep. The second day you wake up, and the stress and tension is still there. This goes on for a week and you are at your wit’s end. What can you do at this point? A friend recommends that you try a massage. You go to a trendy spa or massage parlor downton and you are given the option of choosing to lie on a massage table, sit in a massage chair, or lay on a mat on the floor. You hesitantly choose a massage table and the masseuse gets to work, all your stress and muscle tensions gradually melt away.
So what is a massage? The art of massaging is an ancient practice that uses unique techniques to use hands to manipulate the body's soft tissues. The masseuse can also use his or her hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearms, feet, or a specifically designed device to aim at the correct target spot and apply the right amount of strength onto the spot. Massage has been favored because of its traditional treatment for body's stress. The history of massage can be traced from ancient China, Egypt, Europe, and many other civilizations around the world.
There are many types and styles of massages in the world. Acupressure is one of these types. It is a technique similar to acupuncture and is based on the life energy concept. The massager will apply physical pressure to your body points to clear blockage in your meridians. Some evidence from studies suggest that acupressure may be effective at helping aches, nausea, and vomiting.
Another type of massage that is different from acupressure, aquatic bodywork exists. It is a type of massage that is performed in the water. Patients will be massaged on the land and then be placed into water pools to continue their therapy. Other massage forms include traditional Chinese massages such as Tui Na An Mo, which focuses on pushing and grasping soft body tissues; the Thai massage, which works the entire body using a sequence of movements that are similar to yoga stretching; the Swedish massage, which uses five styles of strokes - effleurage (sliding or gliding), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic tapping), friction (cross fiber or with the fibers) and vibration/shaking. Researchers have found that a sixty minute , whole body Swedish massage, once weekly for eight weeks, is safe and efficacious at reducing pain and increasing function in adults with knee osteoarthritis (1).
Massages are not only just for adults too, but also can benefit children and infants. In fact, a study published by the Journal of Nursing for Women’s Health states that there is evidence that infant massages had a multitude of beneficial effects (2). These effects include shorter length of stay, reduced pain, improved weight gain, feeding tolerance, and neurodevelopment. Nurses can obtain education and certification in these massage techniques and can teach parents these techniques too. Massages are beneficial and deserve to be recognized as a viable non pharmacological therapy for specific conditions backed by research.
Perlman, A., Fogerite, S.G., Glass, O. et al. Efficacy and Safety of Massage for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: a Randomized Clinical Trial. J GEN INTERN MED 34, 379–386 (2019).
Pados BF, McGlothen-Bell K. Benefits of Infant Massage for Infants and Parents in the NICU. Nurs Womens Health. 2019;23(3):265-271.