Massage is the most ancient and basic of healing therapies because we are born with an instinctive inclination to touch. When any part of our body is in pain our most immediate reaction is usually to put our hand in the area and ‘rub it better’. Touch is also used naturally to soothe emotional pain, convey affection and aid relaxation. Because touch is such a biological reflex, millions of people around the world use massage in their daily lives.

Massage from Ancient to Modern
The earliest mention of massage as a specific therapeutic treatment dates back to 2700BC in a Chinese medical book. Many other ancient texts from India, Egypt and Greece also refer to massage and its beneficial effects for the prevention and cure of diseases and in healing injuries. Massage was more formally established in the 18th century as a result of the work of Henrik Ling from Sweden who outlined specific strokes and sequences which now form the basis of the most commonly known massage technique – “Swedish Massage”. The actual word ‘massage’ is a relatively new one, which comes from the Arabic “masah” which means ‘to stroke with the hand’.

Massage has evolved into a skilled profession in the modern world with potential therapists being required to study Anatomy and Physiology, complete case studies and sit rigorous exams before qualifying as licensed practitioners. Massage is now accepted as a highly effective preventative and restorative health care treatment with numerous benefits. Massage can often be recommended as an alternative to pain-relief medication as does not have the harmful side effects associated drug based prescriptions. It can also work alongside medical interventions and studies have shown that recovery times after hospital operations are faster and that patients use less drugs to combat pain if they are given a simple massage or soothing body rub before surgery.

Varieties of Massage
There are many different varieties of massage therapy which vary in their philosophical as well as physical approach. These include, but are not limited to, Sports massage, Deep Tissue massage, Orthopaedic massage, Remedial massage, Aromatherapy massage, Shiatsu, Thai massage, Seated Chair massage, Reflexology, Acupressure, Pregnancy massage, Children’s massage, Craniosacral therapy, Polarity therapy and Watsu. Whilst each of these therapies vary in their approach and application they do share many similar benefits. However the descriptions in the rest of this article relate specifically to Swedish/Holistic massage.

Details of a Holistic Massage Treatment
Holistic massage is the rhythmical kneading and stroking of the skin and muscles. The muscular system of the body constitutes the largest tissue in the body – around 23% of a woman and 40% of a man’s body mass. A therapeutic massage works on the whole body to holistically treat the person and yield greater and more long-lasting healing effects. A skilled therapist will adapt the massage to concentrate particularly on releasing areas of specific pain or tension.

A full body massage with a therapist is usually at least an hour. To start the session the client removes their clothing and secure their self under a cloth or towel as they lay on the massage table. The body is worked on, one section at a time with various movements from slow strokes to kneading actions and pummelling. Each stroke has a different effect and the therapist will use the most appropriate types for each body part and to suit the individual. A vegetable based oil such as sweet almond, grape-seed, coconut or olive oil is used as a lubricant and is often combined with essential oils to enhance the effects of the treatment with Aromatherapy. This branch of herbal medicine is an established system, which uses extracted essences from plants for their multiple benefits from alleviating physical tension to relaxing the mind and uplifting the spirit.

The majority of clients feel immediately better after a massage yet the effects vary according to each person. Whilst some feel exceptionally relaxed and sleepy, others bounce up from the couch energised and ready to run! After a session clients are given a glass of water and are advised to drink plenty more for the duration of the day to flush out the toxins from the body, which, through the manipulation of the muscle tissue, have been released into the bloodstream. Clients should not drink alcohol within 24 hours before a session and should refrain from doing so as long as they can afterwards. Although massage is suitable for the majority of people young and old there are a few medical conditions that prevent a person from receiving treatment such as heart problems, cancer or highly infectious disease. Persons experiencing any medical condition or on medication should consult the therapist and if necessary their doctors before receiving treatment.

The Benefits of Massage
The beneficial effects of massage are numerous and diverse. The most obvious and immediate results are the relief of muscle tension, strain, fatigue or pain, increased mobility in the joints and the removal of toxins in the muscle fibres. Massage increases circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluids, which provides a greater flow of oxygen to vital organs, speeds up the elimination of waste products from the body and improves the functioning of the immune system. This helps in detoxification, weight loss and improves skin tone and radiance. Manipulation of the muscles reduces lactic acid in the fibres which is a natural result of physical exertion yet can cause pain if not removed effectively. Thus massage treatments are highly useful to be used in conjunction with an exercise training programme and will assist anyone engaging in physical activities to recover faster and enhance their performance. Regular massage treatments can improve digestion, reduce blood pressure, relieve tension headaches, ease eyestrain and alleviate water retention.

Massage is also a highly effective treatment for more emotionally based conditions such as depression, irritability, insomnia, tiredness and bad moods. Hardly anyone these days can escape the feelings of stress which results from working long hours, bringing up children, organising large events, studying for exams or bereavement. Due to the calming effects on the sympathetic nervous system and the subsequent positive psychological responses, regular massage is suggested in any program for stress management. Taking time for yourself, honouring your body, relaxing and actively treating yourself well, all have additional benefits of raised self-esteem, confidence and joy.

Holistic massage has a profoundly calming effect on the neuromuscular system bringing about deep relaxation and restoring energy. Because emotional or mental stress often manifests as physical stress within the body, as muscular tensions are released, anxieties and fears are also eased. This results in enhanced capacity for clear thinking, increased energy flow and the client is able to progress further on mental, emotional and spiritual levels. The human body is a magnificent gift from the Creator that deserves to be honoured, appreciated and cared for with gratitude, love and respect and massage is one way of doing so.

Massage is not only a curative treatment for many ailments it is also one of the most effective preventative treatments available. Preventative health care focuses on all the aspects of keeping us in a healthy state of wellbeing so that we remain strong and are less likely to acquire sickness. Balanced nutrition, exercise, herbs, positive attitude, meditation, laughter, adequate rest and massage are all necessary components of a lifestyle that maintains optimum levels of health, vitality and wellness.

The wonderful aspect of massage as a health treatment is that whilst it is doing you good it also feels great!
Massage has so many positive health benefits it is a necessity for anyone wishing to optimise their health, experience increased feelings of wellness and obtain an abundance of energy. Giving and receiving massage with friends and loved ones is encouraged as touch is so important to experience in our everyday lives.
However to obtain the numerous health benefits for mind, body and spirit that are possible through regular massage treatments it is advisable to see a professionally trained therapist.

Massage as a Career
Massage is one of the most sought after complementary therapies worldwide. As people are being driven to find ways to ease the stress of modern life and are aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle, the demand for massage treatment is constantly on the increase. As a tourism destination, Dominica is well positioned to offer massage to the visitors of our island, many of whom will need and want therapeutic treatments after their long travel, hiking on island or to increase their relaxation and enjoyment of their vacation. Working as a massage therapist offers the opportunity to travel, be flexible with your working arrangements, operate a business and brings great personal satisfaction. It is a healing profession that opens up new doors for personal and professional development.

The ITEC Massage Course in Dominica starts September 2012
Currently an incredible opportunity to study massage therapy is available in Dominica. The ITEC Holistic Massage with Anatomy & Physiology Diploma course is a 9-month internationally certified course. ITEC (International Therapy Examination Council) is the largest multi-disciplinary international examination board and is based in London, United Kingdom. ITEC has been operating as an examination council since 1947 and their diplomas are considered to be one of the best professional qualifications in the complementary health field. Successful attainment of an ITEC qualification enables graduates to gain employment all over the world, due to the rigid quality assurance and high standards underpinning the qualifications.

The Holistic Massage Diploma course is a 9-month program which will be conducted in Dominica from September 2012 – June 2013 by Patricia Greenidge-Berry, the Principal of the ‘Personal Body Health Care Clinic and School Of Holistic Therapies’ (PBHCCSHT). Patricia will travel to Dominica on four occasions to offer 4-day training intensives and conduct the additional components of the course via online programming. The course consists of over 500 hours of practical massage training, case studies, business ethics and professionalism and Anatomy and Physiology. The final exams are conducted by the ITEC board in Barbados. This course is suitable even for those who currently work full time.

The ‘Personal Body Health Care Clinic and School Of Holistic Therapies’ is the first ITEC accredited school in the Caribbean and are also registered as a Post-Secondary Tertiary Institution with the Ministry of Education, Barbados. The PBHCCSHT has gained a reputation as one of the most outstanding ITEC schools outside of the UK offering a wide range of courses at a high standard. Almost all of the students gain upper level distinction marks and find employment easily after graduation.

For more information on this course please visit www.itecmassagedominica.wordpress.com or call 295 1655.

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Terri Henry is an ITEC qualified massage therapist who currently works exclusively for Secret Bay, Dominica. She is also a professional writer, health and wellness consultant and home-schooling mother of 2 young children. You can read more on her work at www.onelovelivity.com or www.childofnatureblog.com