Massage is simply the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body – the muscles, tendons and ligaments. A massage therapist’s hands are their most important tool through which they not only treat the patient but also detects physical and emotional problems. The massage therapist palpates the patient’s body to determine the condition of the tissues and the likely source of any pain, and thus the correct form of remedial treatment.
Massage works through the various body systems in one of two ways, a mechanical action and a reflex action. A mechanical action is created by moving the muscles and soft tissues of the body using pressure and stretching movement, thereby cleansing them of acids and deposits. This mechanical action breaks up fibrous tissue and loosens stiff joints.
A reflex is created when treatment of one part of the body affects another part of the body, much like pressing a light switch on a wall to turn on a light in the centre of the room. Just like this electric connection, so too are different parts of the body connected to each other not just by flesh and bone but by nerve pathways, or flows of energy known as ‘meridians’. So, by using reflex action, some therapists will treat a patient’s stomach complaint by massaging the arms, and will alleviate pain in the legs by massaging the lower back.