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Massage therapy is the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for the purpose of normalizing those tissues and consists of a group of manual techniques that include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, and/or causing movement of or to the body.
These techniques affect the muscular, skeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, nervous, and other systems of the body.
The basic philosophy of massage therapy embraces the concept of vis Medicatrix naturae, which is aiding the ability of the body to heal itself, and is aimed at achieving or increasing health and well-being.
Touch is the fundamental medium of massage therapy. While massage can be described in terms of the type of techniques performed, touch is not used solely in a mechanistic way in massage therapy.
One could look at a diagram or photo of a massage technique that depicts where to place one’s hands and what direction the stroke should go, but this would not convey everything that is important for giving a good massage. Massage also has an artistic component.
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Because massage usually involves applying touch with some degree of pressure and movement, the massage therapist must use touch with sensitivity in order to determine the optimal amount of pressure to use for each person.
For example, using too much pressure may cause the body to tense up, while using too little may not have enough effect.
Touch used with sensitivity also allows the massage therapist to receive useful information via his or her hands about the client’s body, such as locating areas of muscle tension and other soft tissue problems.
Because touch is also a form of communication, sensitive touch can convey a sense of caring—an essential element in the therapeutic relationship—to the person receiving massage.