When properly applied, it helps balance the body, assist with posture, relieve aches and pains and increase the flow of oxygen and other nutrients to the blood and bones. Massage techniques range from a basic working of tight muscles for relaxation and stress reduction to extensive treatments (some that don't even involve physical touch) to alter and affect the body's energy. There is a wide range of massage techniques, so you'll need to decide which one best addresses your needs. Whether you just need help with a back spasm a couple of times a year or want to incorporate the tenets of massage into your daily life, there's a technique that's right for you.
The forms of massage are as various as the reasons for their development. In other words, you need to find the kind of massage that best suits your particular needs. Are you trying to reduce stress? Do you want to focus on a certain area of your body? Have you had recent physical trauma or past emotional trauma? Think about all of these factors to determine the type of massage that's exactly right for you.
Plain and simple, the effects of stress on the body can be extremely detrimental. When a muscle is stressed, circulation is reduced and both oxygen and nutrients are blocked. Massage is a terrific way to loosen up the muscles, increase the circulation and bring oxygen and nutrients back to the area. It may also release stored toxins, so it's important to flush out your system by drinking water after a session.
The benefits of a soothing rubdown are priceless -- and timeless -- so it's no wonder massage has been around since ancient times. The Chinese are often credited with creating the earliest form of massage around 3000 BC; India is also known for its long use of massage. In the 6th century AD, the Japanese further developed the art to manipulate energy within the body.
Although rooted in Eastern tradition, massage eventually traveled westward to the ancient Greeks and Romans. When the Roman Empire fell, however, massage, like many medical and scientific practices, became suspect. Eventually resurfacing in Europe during the Renaissance, it continued to evolve as a form of healing. But it wasn't until the 19th century that Swedish massage -- the most popular technique in the United States today -- was developed, combining modern principles of physiology with ancient techniques.
Since World War II, massage has enjoyed ever-growing popularity. Nowadays, thanks to strict industry standards and licensing of practitioners, massage is a commonly accepted form of alternative -- as well as traditional -- medicine. Many people rely on massage to maintain good health and energy, to prevent and cure illness, and for simple relief from stress and other consequences of life in the 21st century.