The most natural instinct when something hurts in the body is to hold or rub the affected area. It is little surprise then that massage therapy is one of the oldest forms of health care. Evidence of massage therapy can be found in both the ancient east and west, and dates back as far as 2330 BC in The Tomb of Akmanthor (The Physician) in ancient Egypt. Massage rose in use as a health service in the West in the mid 19th century when techniques from Sweden were introduced in the USA and UK. Massage therapy was a commonly used treatment in Australia by the early 1900’s and even became a registered profession at one time. The registered massage therapy profession developed in Australia and ultimately turned into the new profession of physiotherapy around the 1940’s. Massage therapy later fell off in popularity with the rise of modern technology.
In the last few decades there has been a resurgence in demand for good hands on massage therapy, highlighted by the role of massage in sports and athletic performance In the last twenty years or so massage courses have developed from short courses focused on simple techniques to government accredited training at Diploma level. Today’s Remedial Massage Therapists have formal training in anatomy & physiology, musculo-skeletal assessment and of course massage techniques. A good remedial therapist can still give a good relaxation massage, but what makes them a ‘remedial’ therapist is the additional training in the assessment and management of musckuloskletal complaints. There are over 80 different types of massage therapy reflecting the multitude of ways which massage can help, and most remedial massage therapists are qualified to work with a couple of different approaches depending on the clients needs. A recent review found that many of the benefits of massage are now being supported by research as well. Back and neck pain, sore shoulders, stress and relaxation, anxiety, depression, insomnia, lymphoedema, and chronic disease in general all respond to massage therapy. Regular massage can also form a key plank in a wellness program where the goal is maintaining flexibility and wellbeing rather than waiting for symptoms to develop, and I certainly recommend it to many of my patients for maintenance therapy.
Massage Therapy is no longer a registered profession in Australia, so look for a couple of things when choosing a therapist; have they completed a Diploma of Remedial Therapies or similar, are they a member of a major professional association and do they have professional indemnity insurance? Most private health funds pay a benefit towards massage therapy for practitioners who met these criteria. As with all health care, good communication and rapport is also very important so don’t be afraid to look around to find the person who suits you best. Never had a massage? Could be time to find out what you have been missing.