The Simple Things
KNOW A THING OR TWO... MASSAGE
HEALING HANDS, ESSENTIAL OILS AND AN ANCIENT HOLISTIC THERAPY
Next time you find yourself furiously rubbing a stubbed toe or kneading sore shoulders, remember you may well be emulating your ancestors. Massage – remedying the body’s niggles, aches and imbalances through touch – is a practice dating back to the beginning of time. The term ‘massage’ originates from the Arabic word ‘mass’ or ‘mash’ meaning to ‘press softly’ with links to ‘massein’ – Greek for ‘knead’. This fusion reflects centuries of overlap between Eastern and Western practices. Ancient medical texts found in China suggest massage was recognised as a treatment alongside herbs and acupuncture from as early as 2700 BCE and around half a century later, hieroglyphics from Egyptian tombs portray people soothing hands and feet with an intuitive rubbing of the hands. Yet while therapies such as Thai massage, shiatsu, Chinese massage and the Ayurvedic Indian head massage were founded on principles that aimed to work in tune with the body’s energy points, Western massage was built on more prescriptive and anatomy-focused foundations. These emerged around the time of the Greeks and were adopted wholly by the Romans; Julius Caesar was said to have had specially trained slaves to ‘pinch’ him to alleviate neuralgic pain – a technique still used today on couches across the world. During the 16th century, massage became popular across Europe as physicians began to mix the therapy with conventional medicine. Yet it wasn’t until the early 1900s that Swedish physiologist Per-Henrik Ling changed the landscape considerably. A series of stroking, pressing, kneading and friction movements he named “medical gymnastics” sowed the seeds for Swedish massage as we know it today.
From the 1960s, as society began to tap into a new groove of complementary medicine, massage was no longer a privilege for the wealthy but a widespread healthcare choice for the holistically minded.
UNDERNEATH IT ALL
Massage is based on the manipulation of the body’s soft tissues to enhance a person’s physical self and their emotional state of mind. By applying varying levels of pressure, (light, medium and deep), a therapist, also known as a practitioner or bodyworker, can help with anything from improving flexibility to alleviating insomnia or stress.
And we needn’t wait for pain to strike before reaping the benefits. Research has proven that a 45-minute Swedish massage can lead to a significant decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as a boosted immune system.
“For many, a massage is not a luxury, but a necessity for good health,” says advanced clinical massage therapist Louise Enticknap. “Monthly massage sessions are a great idea for easing out those aches and pains before they turn into a chronic condition and they also allow people a chance to check in with their bodies and minds.” (therapeuticmassage4you.co.uk).