By: Clifford M. Sonnie, M.D., M.P.H.
Massotherapy, also known as massage therapy, is and has been recommended by me for a long time. For everything from athletic injuries to musculoskeletal and nerve issues, massage is an efficient and effective remedy. Well, that is what I have always mentioned to patients but didn’t realize exactly what was being done in the field. My couple of weekend courses on the subject by no means makes me an expert. So, I sat down with an experienced, licensed massotherapist and took a ton of notes. Here is what I gleaned.
To paraphrase an old saying, massage therapy is not just for relaxation any more. Numerous studies have shown that massage is effective in helping to relieve symptoms of depression, gastrointestinal issues, PMS, pain syndromes, migraines and headaches and overall well being. Interestingly enough though, when you look at all these issues what seems to be a common denominator (that’s the last of my math references)? Stress. The same cause of literally every chronic problem which involves our old friends the adrenal and thyroid glands. Stress. Now, neither I nor any massotherapist will claim a cure, but massage is a proven release of stress. Yes, I know I’ve touted exercise, diet, etc. but you all know there is more than one way to skin a cat (never did know where that saying originated). So, without getting too deep, let’s look at a variety of different types of massage so when you go to a massotherapist, you’ll know better what is being offered.
Swedish: Besides being named after the country of my Viking ancestors (sorry couldn’t help it), this is an effective and very popular method. It involves moderate pressure and long strokes running with the grain of the muscle. Excellent for a total body relaxing feeling and not painful. This is an excellent place for the patient who is a rookie to massage to start.
Deep-Tissue: As the name implies it is deeper and will, therefore, be more painful. The therapist will knead the muscle in a deeper fashion going across the grain of the muscle. It will incorporate trigger points and the attachment of muscle to bone. This is excellent for stress as well as for the recuperation of athletic muscular injuries.
Shiatsu: This type of massage incorporates gentle and moderate pressure to the body’s acupressure points as well as gently stretching the muscle longitudinally. It has been described as acupuncture without the needles and has been successful with symptoms of PMS and insomnia.
Thai: This type of massage is done with your clothes on. It really does not incorporate much massage per se but instead has the therapist stretch you to release muscle tension. It was described to me as yoga without the work. However, it is also described by patients as an incredibly invigorating technique.
Reflexology: This is based on the premise that every organ in the body is represented by an area on the bottom of the foot. Massage those areas and the body will react. Use this in lieu of standard or alternate therapies for medical issues? No. In conjunction with them? Yes.
Craniosacral: This incorporates a light touch to balance pressure between the cranium and the sacrum which will allow muscle release. Excellent for headaches and touted as a very relaxing treatment.
Well, this is a start. There are obviously other techniques out there. My only advice is that whoever you go to no matter what field they are in, make sure they are licensed massotherapists and have had training in whatever techniques they want to use. Likewise, be wary of any practitioner who claims a cure. Caveat emptor. (pretty impressed I remembered some Latin?).
In the meantime, enjoy, smell the roses, get a massage, talk a walk. Should You need a reference for a therapist, let us know. After all the smart healthcare consumer is informed and aware.
Clifford Sonnie, M.D. is the Medical Director at the Balance of Life Clinic