Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Similarities and differences of Eastern and Western massage

Both Eastern and Western forms of massage are similar in that they are both health related and both incorporate body work. Western massage tends to mirror Western medicine where illnessess are broken down to one area of the body and that area is treated. If someone has backpain that is the area the massage therapist will concentrate on. Using her knowledge of anatomy and physiology she will work on that area to relieve the pain. In contrast Eastern massage looks at the body as a whole system. Physical,mind and spiritual aspects of the body are taken into consideration when massage is performed. This includes energy work. Western massage looks to fixing problems through physically rubbing and manipulating the body where as Eastern massage works on energy systems of the whole body such as using pressure on acupoints and working on energy meridians.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Historical, Cultural and Philosophical approaches to Massage

Historical, cultural and philosophical approaches to massage

This blog will compare the development of massage in the Eastern and Western traditions. I will show the role of a number of prominent individuals in the development of massage in the Western tradition..A comparison of maori massage (miri miri & romi romi) with Western massage will be explored, as will the development of professional massage in New Zealand including MINZI, NZATMP, TMA, & MNZ. The massage scandals of the 1980s and their impact on the massage industry, along with contemporary massage will be discussed. I will then cover the following philosophical approaches to massage (body, body-mind, body-mind-spirit) and how they relate to the historical and cultural contexts already discussed.

Massage has been around since the beginning of time. The natural instinct of a mother to comfort and rub a distressed baby, grooming and stroking our loved ones and rubbing a hurt. The development of massage in the East and in the West have largely developed as seperate entities until recent times.
Massage was first recorded in China during the second century B.C. in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, massage is mentioned as a recommendation for the treatment of certain ailments. In India, the traditional healing system of Ayurvedic medicine also prescribed massage for a variety of medical conditions. Physicians of ancient Greece and Rome used massage as one of the primary methods of treating pain. In the West, during the fifth century B.C. Hippocrates also instructed his fellow physicians on the many benefits of rubbing.(Carlson 2006) Julius Caesar was said to been given a daily massage to treat neuralgia.(Massage Therapy Holisticonline 2007) Before 50 A.D. Celcsius, a roman physician, wrote De Medicina ( 8 text books with a lot of information on massage. The first schools of massage were developed in China around 100 A.D. Around 600A.D. The Japanese developed shiatsu. In the 1800’s Ling studied massage after he cured himself of rheumatism in his arm. He then went on to form the Royal Gymnastic Central Institute in Stockholm. Also in 1800’s Reiki , which was believed to date back to early Tibetan healing practices, was discovered by a Japanese philosopher and Christian seminary educator, Dr. Mikao Usui. Johann Mezger. Holland. Brought medical massage to the scientific community. He started using the terms effleurage, petrissage and tapotement. In 1895 Freud used massage to treat hysteria and Kellogg wrote “The Art of Massage.(Onofrio2008)

In the Western tradition some influential names from the history of massage need a mention at this time.
Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) is widely regarded to be the father of medicine and a renowned advocate of massage. He wrote about the use of friction in the treatment of many ailments, as well as about its physiological effects: “rubbing has the effect of relaxing, constricting, thickening and thinning; hard rubbing constrict, soft relaxes, much rubbing thins, and moderate thickens” The ancient physician Claudius Galenus, commonly known as Galen (131-201 A.D.) was a strong proponent of the Hippocratic method. In his extensive writings about massage he did not provide a definition: however, in his De Saniotate Tuenda (Hygiene) he did give descriptions of massage.. He wrote that the objective is “to soften the body” before exercise. “And the rubbings should be of many sorts, with strokes and circuits [sic] of the hands, carry them not only from above down and from below up, but also sub vertically, obliquely, transversely, and subtransversely.” He goes on to give more details about how the hands should move “from every direction”.(Calvert2004) There is debate over whether Pehr Henrik Ling (17776-1839) is the father of Swedish Massage. He was a physiologist and gymnastics instrucor. He developed his own system of medical gymnastics and exercise, known as the Ling System, Swedish Movements, or Swedish Movement Cure. According to Ling, his Swedish gymnastics was a therapeutic system by which we try- by means of influencing movement- to overcome discomfort that has arisen through abnormal conditions. Ling’s system consists of three primary movements, active, passive and duplicated. Massage was viewed as a component of ling’s overall system. This system eventually led to the development of physical therapy as a profession (Salvo2007)
Another key individual in the history of massage is Johann Mezger (1817-1893). He was responsible for making massage a fundamental component of physical rehabilitation. He has also been credited with the introduction of the still-used French terminology to the massage profession ( efffleurage, petrissage, and tapotement.) Unlike Pehr Ling, Mezger , being a physician, was much more able than to promote massage using a medical and scientific basis. Mezger was quite successful in getting the medical profession to accept massage as a bona fide medical treatment for disease and illness. In 1895 while others were trying to convince the medical profession about the benefits of massage John Harvey Kellogg was busy trying to convince the general public. He wrote books on massage and articles in magazines. It was efforts like this that helped to make massage more popular at this time in the United States of America. (Salvo 2007)
Other important developments came from: 1932 Emil Vodder. Danish Physiologist created Manual Lymph Drainage. 1952. Janet Travell researches Triggerpoints
1907- Edgar Ferdinand Cyriax- Used Lings Swedish Movement Cure and Mechanotherapeutics. 1940- James Cyriax, son of Edgar Ferdinand Cyriax, and British Osteopath, created deep transverse friction.(Onofrio2008)

Traditional Maori health is based on treating the body, mind, spirit and includes family. If one of these is damaged or missing the person becomes unwell and unbalanced. Maori massage is taught in a family context and incorporates all four dimensions. They believe the physical being is just one aspect of health and cannot be separated from the aspect of mind, spirit and family. Maori massage encompasses all these aspects. In Maori massage miri miri is gentle and rhythmic more like a relaxation massage, where as romi romi can be seen to be like a deep tissue massage In contrast Western massage deals mainly with the physical aspect of the body, assessing where the pain is arising and focusing on that area. Stress which could be argued as being an emotional response is often dealt with physically through relaxation massage.(McQuillan2009)

In the 1890's there was a dramatic increase in the popularity of massage. A large number of schools were established to teach massage. Teaching standards tended to be poor and they were making exaggerated claims about the benefits of massage. They tended to recruit students from poor areas and were changing large fees. Because the market was being flooded by so many of these trainees there was not much work for them and they were unable to pay their fees. Schools then set up there own clinics and the students were able to work there to help pay their fees. This led to the rise of massage parlors and the association with prostitution Because of the false advertising, the varying educational standards of therapists, and the rise in massage parlors, the reputation of massage declined.(McQuillan2009)

In the 1900's there were over 300 massage therapists practicing in New Zealand. In 1913-1946 massage was taught in New Zealand through Otago University and hospital. In 1947 this changed to the be called the School of Physiotherapy. Legally you could not practice massage therapy unless you were a qualified physiotherapist. In time physiotherapist became disinterested in doing massage because of the time it took and also because of it's reputation of having an association with prostitution and massage parlors. In 1985 Bill Wareham called a meeting of all massage therapists and the Massage Institute of New Zealand (MINZ) was formed. Its focus was education of massage therapists and standards of massage teachers. Annual conferences were held for skill development. In 1989 Jim Sanford established the New Zealand Association of Therapeutic Massage Practitioners(NZATMP) He saw the need to focus on educational standards, promotion of a professional image and increase the public awareness of massage. In the late 1990”s the name was simplified to be known as the Therapeutic Massage Association (TMA). There was a new membership structure- subscriber member and registered massage therapists. NZQA unit standards were introduced and there was a change of focus to supporting the needs of the qualified therapist and being a voice for the massage industry. TMA and MINZ have now merged to be called Massage New Zealand, and the future for massage therapy is looking good. Massage is becoming more popular as the public is exploring their options when dealing with health care. Educational standards are raising and there is a growing acceptance of massage amongst other health care professionals.(McQuillan2009)

Contemporary massage is a mixture of biomedical and complimentary medicine. “We have a foot in both camps” (McQuillan 2009). Massage today incorporates orthopedic massage, neuro-muscular techniques, lymphatic drainage and fascia release. We as massage therapists are also becoming aware of holistic therapy which treats the whole person. It recognizes the relationships between environmental, body, emotions, mind and spirit , and treats all of these component

Western massage through history has focused on the physical body. Massage was used to soften and relax muscles. We focus on the anatomical and physiological aspect of the body. Over time it has been accepted that massage also has an effect on the mind. Massage is helpful when dealing with stress and can also be beneficial and useful in client dealing with mental illness. It seems to me that Eastern and Ethnic massage through the centuries has always acknowledge the body-mind-spirit approach of massage. Each is as important as the other. Western massage and medicine is just taking time to catch up and recognizing the importance of holistic treatment

I come from a scientific background. In my previous job I used a microscope to diagnose cancer. Everything could be seen,touched and explained. That is how Western science works. Training as a Massage Therapist and talking with my fellow students has opened up a whole new world for me The more we understand how massage has developed over time and the differences between Eastern and Western approaches to massage the more we can appreciate massage as a basic health practice.

Carlson,S.(2006). History of massage. Retrieved May 31,2009, from
Calvert,R.(2004). Pages of History: What is Massage. Massage magazine,108.Retrieved May 24, 2009, from
Massage Therapy Holistic History of Massage. Retrieved May 31,2009,from
McQuillan, D. (2009). Effects of massage. Retrieved June 2, 2009 from Elluminate Sessions
Onofrio,J,(2008). General Time Line The History of Massage, Bodywork and Related Modalities . Retrieved June 6,2009, from
Salvo,S (2007) Massage Therapy Principles (3rd, Edition) Missouri: Saunders Elsvier

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sustainable Massage Practice

In this blog I will give my thoughts on having a sustainable massage practice, what it means and why it is important. I will divide these thoughts into four catagories, environmental, economic, social and human

Enviromental sustainability. We are all becoming very much aware of what we and previous generations have done to our planet and most people are re-thinking what they purchase,how it was made and most importantly what are the byproducts. We now recycle and reuse more because of this awareness. In our massage practice the largest effect on the enviroment is probably the use of electricity to light and heat our massage rooms and wash and dry our linen. It is important that our rooms are kept warm but lighting can be kept at a low level. Washing our linen in hot water is essential for hygiene reasons but laundry can be hung on the line instead of being put in dryers, that assuming that you don’t live in Dunedin or Invercargill. Using sheets and towels made from natural re-cycle able material and not synthetic fibres will help the environment. I make my own massage wax. That way I know there are no harmful chemical additives, it is less expensive and I have control over what I am massaging onto my clients. When thinking of the environment it helps to look at the “Output Rule”which states that waste should not be at a level which cannot be assimulated without environmental degradation. “Input Rule” states that in the case of renewable resources, harvesting should not impair renewal. Non renewable resources should be used at less than the historical rate in which renewable substitutes can be found or manufactured.

Economic sustainability: When starting a business you need sufficient financial capital to carry you over until you start to earn money. You need to earn enough money to cover your costs and earn a wage and maybe even to expand your business. Because we are in a financial downturn at the moment I wonder who and how many people are going to be able to afford to pay for regular massages. Massage could be considered as a luxury by some and luxuries are the first things to go when money is tight. A business plan is essential to a successful massage therapy business as is advertising. New clients could also be attracted by group demonstrations using a massage chair and by satisfied clients telling their friends.

Social sustainability: Maintain good friendships,ones that are supportive and caring. Flush out negative influences because they end up draining all your energy. Where ever you have your massage clinic, get to know your neighbours and make sure you have a friendly relationship with them. Treat your staff and clients with good communication, respect and kindness. Volanteer work in your community is a good way to help people who are less fortunate. Networking with other massage therapists is a great way to help each other with knowledge and maybe some client referrals. We all have different strengths.

Human sustainability: In order to be the best individuals we can be, we as a society need to have early intervention plans in place for when things go wrong. Dealing with problem children before they end up in jail as adults is an example. The health system needs to make sure that services are available to everyone and they need to be easily accessed. But that is in a perfect world and ours is slightly flawed. We as individuals and massage therapists must be responsible for looking after ourselves physically, by eating good food, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep. Emotionally we need to love and respect ourselves before we can help others. I am far from perfect but I am the best person I can be and I'm proud of myself.

This unit has certainly given me plenty to think about for the future. With more awareness of sustainability and more people talking about it I think all bodes well for the future of our planet and society.

Reference: Elluminate. Fundamentals of massage. Sustainable massage practice. from David McQuillan,class lecturer.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009



As massage therapists, we consider ourselves to be health professionals. But because some still associate massage therapy and the sex industry as one in the same a high standard of ethics is required for the industry.

Care should be client centered. Clients needs must be explored and addressed before and during the massage. Through clear and open communication we must find out what they are hoping to achieve from the massage. We must also let them know what we expect from them. All clients must be treated with respect and compassion. Communication with clients should be clear, letting them know what we will be doing during the massage, how to undress and lay on the table. Informing them that they will always be draped in an appropriate manner except for the part of the body that is being massaged at the time. They should be told that they have control over the massage and can stop it at any time. They should be asked if they have any parts of their body that they want us to avoid. Verbal permission must always be obtained when a therapist is wishing to work on the gluteus.

As massage therapist we must be aware that there is a power differential, with us being seen by most clients as the experts. This is a situation that could be abused by a therapist who does not have good morals. Clients can be vulnerable and open to suggestion during the massage process. Care must be taken when making decisions at this time, that it is in the clients best interest and that no harm will be done. Our clients need to know that we are massage therapists and are not able to help them with other medical problems. We are able though to refer them to another health professional if we think it would be helpful to the client. Ethically we must only perform massage techniques that we have been appropriately trained for. If you have been trained in only relaxation methods, deep tissue work should not be attempted as injury could occur.

We should show our client how we take notes and record treatments and outcomes. They should be told that they can view their notes at anytime, that they are confidential and no-one else will see them without written permission from them. Benefits and likely after effects of massage should be explained to them along with appropriate massage research.

The relationship between massage therapist and client should be professional. This can be achieved by the therapists image and behaviour. A complaints procedure should be explained to all new clients which will give them the confidence that they have somewhere to go to if there is a problem that they cannot discuss with the therapist. We need to be aware that sometimes clients can become very dependant and needy and want more than a professional relationship. In this case we must maintain clear boundaries and if it becomes unmanageable we must consider referral to another therapist.
We as massage therapists also need to look at our feelings towards our clients. Are we expecting to be able to fix everything, have our clients adore and be grateful to us. If so we are in this profession for the wrong reason.

Good ethics is essential for the massage therapy business to move forward.

Time Management


I have always thought that I was efficient at using my time and felt that I was able to achieve more in my day than most people. I have come to realise that that is not the same as good time management. In this blog I will attempt to explore what I am currently doing as time management and how I could improve that to achieve a less stressful outcome.

At the moment I am still getting used to being an adult student in tertiary education. I have spent many hours trying to understand what we are expected to be able to achieve on a computer. I now have organised some peer support for that and soon should be able to complete my I.T. Induction paper. Anatomy was difficult and like a foreign language. In the beginning I understood very little and remembered even less. I failed my first anatomy assessment and was really disappointed in myself. I had to study exclusively on anatomy for three weeks over our break and managed to scrape through with a pass on our second assessment. This has given me some confidence and I am well on my way to being ready for our third assessment. I am really enjoying bioscience and like the way it is formated. It suits my learning style. I need to spend more time on practical massages and get more time logged in my massage book.

I am not in employment and have no family commitments during the week, therefore my time is my own. I do a small amount of volunteer work but that is flexible.

I plan to do two hours a day study on anatomy and keep ahead of my bioscience units. I need to plan better for when essays and assignments are due especially if I am going to need help from the learning center.

My biggest weakness is that I am a great procrastinator, but if study and polytechnic work is made a priority each day it will give it a more important focus. I work well on the basis of thirty minutes study, ten minutes for me, doing something that I like doing, then back to thirty minutes study.

I have all our elluminate session dates and when assignments are due written up on a wall calendar. I haven’t discovered how to work google calendar yet. I will plan my week on Sunday night record it on a sheet of paper and place it on my fridge door for easy reading. Each morning I will plan for what needs to be done that day. If it is not achieved that day I will carry it through to the next day.

My strength is that I am determined to succeed in this massage course and will not loose control over the study that has to be achieved. Apart from my first anatomy assessment I am not the sort of person who gets caught not having the work done. I hate the feeling of being bogged down with too much work or being unprepared.

With the stratagies I have put in place I am sure that my time will be managed in a way to allow me to study and pass this massage diploma.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The effect of massage stroke
Touch is one of the most powerful senses we as humans have. It makes us feel accepted and included. It can also be used in negative violent situations, but as a caring form of communication it is every bit as powerful as words. In this blog I will address the effect of massage strokes on the autonomic nervous system, the effects of different massage strokes from gentle touching to vigorous tapotement. Effects on conditions such as muscle pain blood pressure and concentration will also be explored.

The effects of massage on the Autonomic Nervous system
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is composed of two parts, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. Both are regulated by the hypothalamus gland situated near the brain. These two systems are complimentary. The sympathetic nervous system serves all parts of the body and is our “fight and flight” system. It slows down some of our body systems like the digestive system, increases our heart rate and heightens our alertness ready for danger. This is an instinct to protect ourselves until we can confirm it is safe. The parasympathetic nervous system when activated decreases anxiety and depression. The release of cortisol (a stress hormone) relaxes us and keeps us calm. At the beginning of a relaxation massage with a new client who is not familiar with the therapist the sympathetic nervous system is likely to be triggered for the first 10-15 minutes until the body accepts there is no danger and with the correct massage the parasympathetic nervous system will then be triggered. Light massage and vigorous massage will stimulate the sympathetic nervous system whereas moderate massage will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (Diego,M. et al, 2004).

The effects of Massage Strokes
Different massage strokes have different effects on the body
Touching and holding is a gentle technique a massage therapist may use to introduce him/herself to a new client. It is a comforting soothing touch and would be suitable for the elderly and those with a life-limiting illness.
Effleurage is a gliding movement used to warm tissue and explore underlying muscles. It can be used to prepare the area for deeper massage. It is sometimes the only stroke needed to relax and alleviate discomfort.
Effleurage can be used as a transition stroke being used before deeper massage and then again as the massage on that area is coming to an end.
Petrissage is a kneading stroke that can increase the blood flow around the muscles,
reduce local swelling and rid the body of metabolic wastes. It can reduce muscle pain and stiffness and stimulate the nervous system. It can further stimulate the release of endorphins therefore helping in pain control.
Compression is the rhythmic pumping on a muscle. During compression the blood is pushed out of the area and when the muscle is released the blood quickly rushes back. This technique broadens the muscle and often encourages the muscle to relax.
This is my personal favourite as I have many trigger points on my back and shoulders from chronic Occupational Overuse Syndrome.
Tapotment has several variations:hacking cupping and pounding. Cupping is used on more sensitive areas like the calves. Tapotment increases local blood supply, tones loose muscles and can relieve pain. A hypersensitive area can be desensitised after a few minutes of tapotement. This technique is often used at the end of a relaxation massage when the client needs to return to a situation where mental alertness is required. Hacking and pounding can be used to loosen phlegm in the lungs in cases such as cystic fibrosis.
Vibration is a technique that can be used to observe the movement or stiffness of local tissue. Done before and after a relaxation massage the therapist can observe how much the muscle has relaxed due to the therapist's treatment.

Other effects of Massage
Effects of massage unfortunately are usually short-term. We need to be careful to not oversell the benefits. That said it is generally agreed the most people benefit from massage. Blood flow is increased due to pressure and long rhythmic strokes. Increased circulation aides in the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to cells and tissues. It also aides in the excretion of metabolic wastes Blood pressure is decreased. In the same way the lymph flow is increased, reducing swelling and increasing the lymphocyte count which supports the immune system. Muscle tension is decreased because of increased blood supply and muscle stretching. Massage on connective tissue can prevent excessive scar formation, decrease adhesion formation and can release fascial restrictions. It can promote fracture healing and improves connective tissue healing. As result of the relaxing effect of massage sleep patterns are improved and digestion maybe stimulated. My last client (personal communication, April 1, 2009) commented to me about how well she had slept immediately after her massage. Mood improves after massage and feelings of anger are decreased. Good concentration and mental alertness are recognised benefits of massage. Physical sensation of pain is reduced. Massage has been shown to affect the nervous system through stimulation of sensory receptors. The gate control theory refers to the idea that pain impulses pass through a “gate” to reach the nerve fibers leading from the spinal cord to the thalamus in the brain. Pain impulses are transmitted by large and small diameter nerve fibres. Massage stimulates the large diameter fibres, preventing the small diameter fibres from transmitting signals, suppressing the sensation of pain (Fritz 2000). The massage therapist, through touch can satisfy his/her clients needs for attention, acceptance, caring and nurturing .

Human touch and skin contact is an important basic need we all have to keep us healthy both physically and mentally. In his theory of Human Motivation Abraham Maslow, lists touch as number three of a list of 20 basic needs, being surpassed only by safety and shelter.“ Given that most diseases are exacerbated by stress and given that massage therapy alleviates stress, receiving massages should probably be high on the health priority list, along with diet and exercise.” (Field & Chaitow as cited in study notes, March, 2009)


Abraham Maslow 1962 Massage Therapy, 3rd edition Salvo, Louisiana.
Diego, M., Field ,T., Saunders, C., Hernandez-Reif, M. (2004). Massage therapy of moderate and light pressure and vibrator effects on EEG and heart rate. International Journal of Neuroscience, 114, 31-44
Field T, Chaitlow L (2000), Touch Therapy. Oxford, UK: Churchhill Livingston.
McQuillan,D. (2009) Study notes
Salvo, S.,(1999) Massage Therapy 3rd Ed., Louisiana, USA, Saunders Elsevier.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I thought the video had some really shocking statements, that was used to grab the viewers attention. While I'm sure everyone agrees that sustainablity is a world wide problem and we all need to look at our selves and ask "what can I do better", I thought the video was way over the top.Big business conspiracies, governments being bullied by big businesses. I think they lost of credibility when they made the statement that human breast milk contained the most chemicals of all. They do not tell us where they are getting all their facts and figures. All in all I thought it was a very cleverly put together video, using a brilliant actor, but at the end of the day it was only someones opinion and was not backed up with any concret evidence.