Therapeutic Value of Massage
Massage is an excellent form of passive exercise. The word is derived from the Greek word
ʽmassierʼ which means to knead. It involves the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the
body. If correctly done on a bare body, it can be highly stimulating and invigorating.
As far back as 400 B.C. , the great Hippocrates, the father of medicine, employed massage and
manipulation in healing his patients. Since then it has been used as a mode of treatment for
many ailments and it has restored many a sufferer to health and vigour.
The general massage, dealing with all parts of the body, is highly beneficial in many ways. It
tones up the nervous system, influences respiration and quickens the elimination of poisons and
waste material from the body through the various eliminative organs such as the lungs, skin,
kidneys and bowels. It also boosts blood circulation and metabolic processes. A massage
removes facial wrinkles , helps to fill out hollow cheeks and neck and eases stiffness, sore
muscles and numbness.
There are five fundamental modes of manipulation in massage and these are : effleurage
(stroking), friction ( rubbing), petrissage ( kneading), tapotment (percussion) and vibration
(shaking or trembling).
1. Effleurage :
This involves sliding with the hands, using long even strokes over the surface of the body.
Effleurage is performed in five ways, namely stroking with (I) palms of two hands; (ii) the palm of
one hand; (iii) the knuckles; (iv) the ball of the thumb and (v) the finger tips. Effleurage increases
blood circulation and soothes the nervous system. It also warms and relaxes. It is very helpful in
atrophied condition of the skin.
2. Friction :
The movements, which are circular in nature are performed with the help of the thumb and tips
of fingers or the palm of the hand towards the joints or around the joints. Fric- tion limbers up
joints, tendons, and muscles and facilitates the removal of deposits by breaking them. It also
helps in reducing swelling after nerve inflammation.
3. Petrissage :
This is the process of kneading, pressing and rolling of the tissues and is performed with one or
both hands, with two thumbs or with thumbs and fingers. One should apply heavy pressure for
deep kneading and light pressure for superficial kneading. Petrissage is a treatment of the
muscles. It increases nutrition, strengthens muscles, relieves intestinal congestion and helps
elimination of the poisons. It boosts long activity and cellular respiration, eliminates fatigue
poisons and tones up nerve endings.
4. Tapotement :
This involves hacking, tapping, clapping and beating and is achieved by striking the body rapidly.
Short and quick blows are generally given from the wrist. Tapotement helps in atrophied
condition of the muscles. It increases blood supply, soothes nerves and strengthens muscles.
5. Vibrations :
This is achieved by rapidly shaking the pressing movements by use of the hand or fingers onthe
body. Vibrating hand should move constantly. This is beneficial in neuritis and neuralgia after the
inflammatory stage is over. It stimulates circulation, glandular activity and nervous plexuses. It
also helps in bowel movement.
Another form of massage helpful in most elements is the vibratory massage. This can be done
by trained persons only. The vibratory muscles is more efficiently administered by a special,
electrically operated machine.
Material for Massage
Cotton seed oil is most commonly used for massaging, but butter is used for filling out cheeks
and the neck and also for breast enlargement. If the patient is averse to oil, talcum powder may
be used. Oil should not be used by persons with excessive body hair. General body massage
may be done for 40 to 45 minutes and local body massage for 10 to 15 minutes.
The oil should be washed off completely after massage.
Massage can be used with advantage as a method of treatment for many common ailments. The
various forms of massage and their usefulness in various diseases are described here in brief.
Massage of the Joints :
Stiff and swollen joints can be cured by massage combined with mechanical movements.
Massage is, however, not recommended in serious inflammatory cases of the joints and in
tubercular joints. It should also be avoided in infectious diseases like diphtheria and gonorrhoea
which cause formation of pus as massage may spread the pus to the entire system. Sprains and
bruises can be cured by massage. In these cases, affected parts should first be bathed with hot
water for 15 to 30 minutes. Next the massage should be done for a few minutes. Gentle stroking
and kneading is recommended on and around the injured tissues. Fractures can also be treated
This form of massage is of great help in atrophy of the muscles which usually follows if the
muscles are not used for any length of time. This condition may also be brought about by
injuries, diseases of the joints, inflammation of the muscles and nerves, and by too long use of
cats, bandages and splints.
A human being carries one -half of the weight of his body in the form of muscular tissues.
One-fourth of the blood supply circulates in the muscles. When one gets a good massage
treatment, the muscles get regenerated and are then capable of holding half of the blood supply.
Massage thus provides additional nourishment to feed the muscular tissues, helping them to
grow strong. Tapping, striking, and vibrating help the muscle to develop its contractile power.
Muscle massage is brought by first effleurage, kneading, followed by tapotement. Later, active
and passive movements are given.
Massage is employed for eliminatng muscle contraction and for breaking of adhesions. A little
moderate kneading, and percussion cause muscles to contract and become stronger. Deep
circular kneading and vibration loosens the muscles. Kneading under and round the muscles
breaks up adhesions..
Massaging the nerves :
Massage benefits many nerve problems. In case of acute inflammation of the nerves, massage
should be done carefully. Light and gentle stroking are recommended. Deep pressure should not
be used on swollen nerves for it will increase the inflammation. All that is needed is just a gentle
tapotement or beating of the nerve.
Nerve compression is recommended for soothing nerves. Grasp the limb with both hands, and
create firm pressure around and down the arm. Start with the shoulder and proceed down to the
wrist. As you leave the grip, bring the hands down a little and make another pressure. As a
result, blood circulation will increase. Spinal nerve compression is extremely beneficial. It is done
by the palm of the hand. Vibration of the fingers stimulate it. Sleeplessness can be cured by long
slow and gentle stroking down the spine and entire back.
Abdominal Massage :
This form of massage is beneficial in constipation. It stimulates the peristalsis of the small
intestines, tones up the muscles of the abdomen walls and mechanically eliminates the contents
of both large and small intestines. Abdominal massage should not be done in general, femoral,
inguinal and umbilical hernia, inflammation of the uterus, bladder, ovaries and fallopian tubes,
kidney stones, bladder or gall bladder, ulcers of the stomach and intestines, and pregnancy.
Abdominal massage should not be done after a heavy meal, but after two hours or so. The
bladder should be emptied before the massage. The patient is made to lie on his back with his
knees drawn up. This enable the abdomen wall to relax. The masseur should stand at the right
side of the patient and use his finger tips for friction round the umbilical region from right to left.
He should likewise alternatively knead the walls and roll with both hands, making deep and firm
pressure. He should knead with the hand and finger tips and keep clear of any wound or tender
places. He should later take up massaging of the larger intestines.
The manipulation of the large intestine should begin on the right side. Keep it going upwards and
across the transverse colon and move right down on the left side to the signoid flexure and
rectum. Circular kneading should be done with the help of the three middle fingers. At the same
time press into the contents of the abdomen, following the course of the larger colon with a
crawling motion. Keep kneading by means of a few circular movements in one spot with the help
of finger tips. Keep moving the fingers a little further along. Knead repeatedly. Use knuckles of
the hand to make deep pressure along the large colon, moving the hands along after each
Once the kneading of the abdomen isover, follow up by tapotement with both hands cupped or
use the knuckles of the hand. Vibration may also be employed. The patient could also be asked
to do some gymnastic exercises for strengthening the walls of the abdomen. Since blood
pressure increases during abdominal manipulation, patients with hypertension should avoid
abdominal massage. Massage should also be avoided in cases where there has been recent
bleeding in the lungs, the stomach or the brain.
Chest Massage :
Chest massage is helpful in many ways. It strengthens the chest muscles, increases circulation
and tones up the nervous system of chest, heart and lungs. It is especially recommended in
weakness of the lungs,palpitation and organic heart disorders. Bust and mammary glands can
be developed by proper massage.
The patient is made to lie on the back with the arms at the sides. The masseur starts
manipulating the chest by means of strokes with both hands on each side of the breast bone. A
circular motion is formed by the movement made up and down, moving down the chest. Next the
muscle kneading is done by picking up the skin and muscles with both hands.
given to both sides of the chest likewise. Circular kneading is next done by placing one hand on
each side of the breast bone and making the circular motion outward towards the side.
Tapotement follows by hacking and slapping.
Massage of Back :
The purpose of the massage of the back is to stimulate the nerves and circulation for treating
backache, rheumatic afflictions of the back muscles, and for soothing the nervous system.
The patient is made to lie down with the arms at the sides. The masseur effleurages the back
from the shoulders downwards using both hands on each side of the spine. Stroking is done
from the sacrum upward. Friction follows with each hand at the sides of the spine going down
slowly. Next, kneading by muscle picking is done with squeezing. Alternate rapid pushing and
pulling movement of the hands sliding down the spine. Circular kneading should also be done.
The treatment should end by slapping, hacking and cupping on each side of the spine. Gentle
stroking and light kneading of the back is relieving and soothing.
Percussion and vibration result
into stimulating experience. Vibration of the end of spine benefits the sacral nerves and pelvic
organs. It is recommended in constipation, hemorrhoids, weakness and congestion of the
bladder and sexual organs.
Massage of the Throat :
This helps to overcome headache, sore throat and catarrh of the throat. The patient is made to
throw his head back.. The masseur places palms of both hands on sides of neck with thumbs
under the chin, and fingers under the ears. A downward stroke is next made towards the chest
over the jugular veins. Do not exert heavily on the jugular veins.
Repeat several times.