Massage is considered to be one of the oldest types of healthcare known to man. The name is loosely derived from “mass’h”, an Arabic word which translates to knead, squeeze or touch. It played a prominent role in the healthcare systems of many of the great ancient civilisations including Ancient China, India, Greece, Egypt and Rome. There are even hieroglyphics carved on the walls of Egyptian tombs that represent massage as well as many mentions of the therapy in medical texts written by Hippocrates and Galen, two of the greatest medical researchers in the Greek and Roman times. Fast forward to the present day and massage is still one of the most popular and available medical services.
Massage has evolved beautifully over time. There are over 80 different types of massage therapies, focusing on various areas of the body and mind, available to people all over the globe. Even after all of this history and development, there are still many interesting things that can be discovered about this therapy. Here are some of the coolest facts about massage!
1. Massage is said to be one of the oldest types of medical care and goes back to around 2500BC. But the first known meaning of the word only came to the English language around 1450 and it referred to the action of taking ‘mass’, which is quite different to the therapy! The meaning changed to what it is today in the mid-1800s.
2. There are approximately five million touch receptors in our skin and 3,000 in just one fingertip. No wonder an ordinary massage feels so stimulating and a body to body massage so sensational!
3. There are over 640 muscles in the human body, which means a whole lot of strained and tired muscles for a masseuse to stimulate.
4. Touch is very powerful. It’s the first sense that we humans developed and scientists speculate that it will be our last sense too. A healthy dose of touch of any kind, whether it’s a hug, pat on the back or an hour-long massage, can help reduce heart rate, blood pressure, stress and pain. There’s a reason why your mother’s hug helped so much when you had grazed your knee as a child!
5. Our skin is our largest organ and the first contact point for a massage. Because touch is so soothing and there is so much surface area for a therapist to touch, we are bound to enjoy a massage, regardless of whether it’s a foot or a head one.
6. Massage is known for its mental benefits, particularly its stress-relieving nature. When we get a massage, the feeling of the masseuse’s touch is enjoyable and dopamine is released into our bloodstream, lighting up the pleasure centre in our brains. Endorphins and feel-good hormones are also released, including oxytocin, serotonin and prolactin, which work to relax, reduce stress and stabilise mood. Hence why we feel so tranquil after a massage!
7. Massage is also known for its physical benefits. The stress hormone cortisol actually reduces levels of white blood cells, our body’s soldiers against illnesses and foreign substances. Massage reduces stress, hence reducing cortisol levels and boosting white blood cell numbers, which means it strengthens the immune system. Massage also stimulates blood circulation and lymphatic system, meaning cells are replenished with nutrients and waste products are flushed from the body more quickly.
8. In South Korea, only the blind and visually impaired can become licensed masseurs. The law was established in 1912 when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule as a way of helping the legally blind have a rich and fulfilling career. In 2008, there were 7,100 visually impaired people registered as members of the Korean Association of Masseurs. However, they struggle to meet the demand so there are thousands of sports massage centres, spas, hotels and parlours that employ sighted workers who are ‘illegal’ masseuses. National sports teams also hire masseurs with healthy vision. There are around 150,000 to 700,000 illegal therapists.
9. Lomi lomi is a type of massage that originates from Hawaii. It mimics the movement of the ocean waves and hula-hula dance. Also known as the ‘loving hands’ massage, Lomi lomi translates to ‘rub rub’ in Hawaiian. The therapists use broad, flowing strokes to gently but deeply penetrate the muscles. It works on the theory that memories are stored in every cell of the human body as well as the mind.
10. The biggest group massage therapy ever was when 1,000 therapists from Indonesia got together to massage 1,000 people for 15 minutes.
11. When a body gets a massage, it relaxes instantly. Our brains get the message from our skin nerves straight away because muscle nerves send messages at the speed of 390 feet per second. Thus, we feel everything immediately and stress levels in the body are reduced.
12. 60 minutes of massage is said to have the same effect on your body as seven to eight hours of good quality sleep. If you have to do an all-nighter, get a massage the day after!
13. Julius Caesar used massage as a cure for epilepsy.
14. Esalen massage is an interesting and unique type of massage that works to heal emotions.
15. Swedish massage is the most popular type of massage practised in the U.S. and the most well-known as well. Swedish massage forms the foundations of modern Western massage and all Western therapists are taught this therapy before anything else. If it states ‘classic massage’ on a spa’s list of treatments, they will be referring to a Swedish massage. Deep tissue massage is the second most popular.
16. In 1996, massage therapy was officially introduced for the first time as a core medical service in the Olympics in Atlanta. Since then, Olympic athletes have been turning to massage therapy to help with their recovery and improve their athletic performance. This is because massage helps to soothe sore muscles and improve flexibility. Various studies have found that massage reduces inflammation in strained muscle tissues, which reduced the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the following day. This meant that athletes could resume their training without compromising any of their strength.
Who knew there were so many different facts about massage therapy! We hope you learnt something new today. Get a massage today and experience the benefits first-hand.
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