Massage Therapy

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Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy is technically defined as the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body�muscles, skin and connective tissues�for therapeutic purposes. This definition belies the complexity of a set of modalities that are helpful in treating conditions ranging from a bad day to severe whiplash. Most Massage Therapists are skilled in a variety of techniques that relax and bring balance to the whole body, as well as promote healing of muscular injuries and overuse. This chapter also addresses Infant Massage Instruction.

Some beneficial effects of Massage Therapy are:

  • Enhances deep relaxation and stress reduction

  • Relieves muscle tension and spasm

  • Increases joint flexibility and range of motion

  • Assists with deeper and easier breathing

  • Improves circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid

  • Speeds recovery from injury

The use of massage is widespread and well documented throughout history. Stroking and kneading of the neck, chest, back and limbs was used in ancient civilizations�and in most cultures since then�to relieve pain and suffering. In the fifth century BC, Hippocrates wrote,”the physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in rubbing.”

More recently, the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami in Florida has documented the value of Massage Therapy in enhancing weight gain in premature infants, decreasing symptoms of depression and improving immune function in AIDS patients.


For information on State Boards and Requirements see Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals.


Massage Therapy, as the term is used today, is non-specific and encompasses many different techniques used for a variety of purposes. Although the terms massage and bodywork are used interchangeably, bodywork usually refers to primarily manipulative techniques, such as:

  • Craniosacral Therapy works with precise aspects of human anatomy in concert with inherent intelligence to return to a state of balance and health.

  • Deep Tissue Massage unsticks the fibers of a muscle while releasing deeply-held patterns of tension, removing toxins and re-educating the muscle to operate at full capacity

  • LaStone Therapy application of thermotherapy, using deep penetrating heated stones and alternating with extremely cold stones.

  • Neuromuscular Therapy incorporates several techniques, including strength and length testing, trigger point therapy and fascial manipulation.

  • Reflexology applies healing pressure to the points on our hands, feet, ears and other body parts, that reflect the major systems of our body, such as organs, skeleton and muscles.

  • Rolfing® is a systematic approach to releasing patterns of stress and impaired function in the body, through physical manipulation and education.

  • The Trager® approach uses gentle rocking, swinging, stretching and pressing to create pleasurable, effortless, easy movement.

Infant Massage Instruction

Massage is a precious gift that parents can give their babies. It warms, soothes, relaxes, comforts and communicates affection with a richness little else can match. Some of the benefits of infant massage are: helps parents bond with their babies, reduces muscle tension, enhances left/right brain symmetry, helps the infant to learn appropriate touch, and helps soothe colicky babies.

Infant massage is taught in classes for one or both parents. Parents can attend before the birth of their baby, using a doll on which to practice the strokes, or may bring their three-week to ten-month-old infant to massage. The course is taught in four sessions of about 60-90 minutes each.

During the course parents learn the benefits of infant massage, learn how to massage their baby, and are given helpful hints for infant massage. The strokes are easy to learn, so that all parents can give a wonderful massage. It would also make sense for relatives and others who care for infants to learn this wonderful modality.

Source: Joanne Cardinal, NTS, Aurora CO.

Contributors: Jan Foster Miller, MA; Janey North Brancheau, CMT, RPP, Boulder CO; Susan Folsom, CMT, Boulder CO