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Many of us already understand the power of human touch. Some of my fondest childhood memories surround my cuddling up next to my grandmother to watch our favorite television show, or laying my head in her lap when I didn't feel well.


Remember how it felt when your first love laid his hand on your shoulder or caressed your face? Think about the warm glow you now feel when your companion gives you a great big hug after a long, tough day. Or take a minute to remember the tickle you feel way deep down in your soul when your children wrap their arms around your neck. The feelings that those gentle touches evoke are real and are actually chemically driven. When one human being touches another in a caring way, chemicals are released in our bodies that emit a pleasurable sensation. What a waste to go through life and never connect with another woman in a truly warm and emotionally intimate way.

Hands-on therapy is one of the oldest healing traditions in both medicine and religion. Physicians and healers from many cultures have used the laying on of hands to evoke healing for many centuries. The history of massage, the hands-on manipulation of muscles and soft tissue, dates back as far as three thousand years to ancient China.

Massage is a vital part of a healthy life. There is no beter way to release the stress of our fast-paced lives than by having another human being massage away the stored up tension. There are many kinds of massage therapy, all with their own theoretical and philosophical perspectives, but there are certain basic benefits that are common to them all.

Improving blood circulation

Tension in the muscles can impair blood circulation, resulting in a deficiency of blood delivery resulting in impairment of nutrient delivery and inadequate toxin and waste removal. This, in turn, can lead to illness and slow- er healing. Massage improves circulation and decreases the likelihood of illness. Improved blood circulation bene- fits virtually all health conditions.

Improvement of circulation of the lymphatic fluid

The circulation of the lymphatic fluid plays a key role in ridding the body of toxins and waste. Massage improves lymphatic flow, which improves the healing process.

Toxin Release

Chronic tension can result in the buildup of toxic by-products in the muscles like lactic acid. Manipulating the muscles through massage helps release these by-products so that they are released into the blood, and subsequently cleansed from the body.

Tension Release

Chronic muscular tension can impair the body's structure and function. Psychological well-being is also affected by physical tension. Release of tension allows greater relaxation, which has important psychological and physical benefits.

Better Muscle Tone and Muscle Function

The musculoskeletal structure of the body affects the body's function, and vice-versa. Both are adversely altered by stress and trauma. Massage therapy can help restore healthy structure and function, thereby allowing better circulation, greater ease of movement, more flexibility and the release of chronic patterns of tension, creating better muscle tone and function.

Stress Reduction

Stress is known to contribute to illness by suppressing the immune system. Massage therapy is an effective method of reducing stress, promoting health by stimulating the immune system to function more effectively.


The exchange of healthy energy between two human beings serves as a means of promoting healing. Hands-on therapy such as massage is an important means of exchanging energy and promoting health.

Massage techniques

So, you have decided to go for a massage at your local spa. You call the spa and the scheduler asks you what kind of massage you would like to have. He or she then proceeds to give you a long list of different kinds of mas- sages: Swedish, Esalen, Neuromuscular, Deep Tissue, Sports, Lymph or Rolfing massages.

I know, you don't have a clue, and the choices are so wide it can get somewhat confusing. Here's a list of each mas- sage technique. This will assist you in selecting the mas- sage that most meets your individual needs.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is the most commonly used method in the United States. It was developed in Sweden in the 1830s and uses a system of long gliding strokes, kneading and friction techniques in the more superficial layers of muscles. The masseuse usually massages in the direction of blood flow toward the heart because there is an emphasis on stimulating the circulation of the blood through the soft tissues of the body. Swedish massage can be a relatively vigorous form of massage, with a great deal of joint movement included. Oil is usually applied to the skin. This facilitates the stroking and kneading of tense muscles. Though a massage covering only part of the body is possible using this technique, Swedish massage is often given as a complete, full body technique.

Esalen and Esalen/Swedish Massage

Esalen massage is a modern variation of Swedish massage that was developed at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Whereas Swedish massage focuses on relieving muscle tension, Esalen massage focuses on the mind and body as a whole. Its main goal is to increase circulation and create deeper states of relaxation. Traditional Swedish massage involves brisk movements; Esalen mas- sage involves slow rhythmic movements, aimed at producing a semi-conscious state.

Neuromuscular Massage

Neuromuscular massage concentrates on finger pressure applied to individual muscles. This approach increases blood flow and releases intense knots of muscle tension that result in the referral of pain to other parts of the body. This form of massage helps to break the cycle of muscle spasms and pain and is often used to control pain. Trigger point massage and myo-therapy are also varieties of neuro- muscular massage.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is used to release chronic muscular tension. This technique uses slow strokes and direct pressure or friction. The movements are directed across the grain of the muscles using the fingers, thumbs and elbows. The strokes are applied with greater pressure and to deeper layers of the muscle than Swedish massage.

Sports Massage

Sports massage uses techniques that are similar to those used in Swedish and deep tissues massages, but are more specifically adapted to accommodate the needs of athletes and the effects of athletic performance. Sports massage is used before and after athletic performances as part of an athlete's training regimen to promote healing from injuries.

Manual Lymph Drainage Massage

Manual Lymph Drainage massage involves rhythmic strokes directed at the improvement of lymph flow. It is used primarily as a treatment for conditions that are caused by poor lymphatic drainage, such as edema.


Rolfing was developed in the 1920's. It involves a form of deep tissue work targeted at realigning the major segments of the body, including the head, shoulders, thorax, pelvis and legs, bringing them into a finer vertical alignment. This technique loosens or releases adhesions in the fascia, the deep connective tissue of the body. The fascia is sup- posed to move easily and allow easy articulation or movement of muscles and muscle groups. Trauma or chronic stress can cause adhesions to form, preventing full freedom of movement. Rolfing is usually administered in a series of ten organized sessions, each targeted at a different area of the body.

Acupressure and Shiatsu

Acupressure and Shiatsu are similar varieties of finger pressure massage. In both, pressure is applied to specific points of the body that correspond to traditional acupuncture points. Pressure is applied with the thumb, fingers or palm rather than needles. It is believed that when muscles are tense, the flow of energy is impaired through those areas leading to chronic problems in the muscles and associated organs. Stretching and movement are also used with these techniques.

A Final Word about Massage

Countless studies have demonstrated the impressive bene- fits of integrating massage therapy into medical care. By evoking a large number of physiological and psychological changes, massage therapy has been found to improve outcomes in several medical cases, from the treatment of spinal pain to inflammatory bowel disease.


Dr. Jill Waggoner
Charlton Medical Group
3450 West Wheatland Road
Physician Offices II, Suite 340
Dallas, Texas  75237

T 972.217.3007

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PO Box 2118

Desoto, Tx 75213


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