Massage and manipulative therapies are one of the major areas of alternative and complementary medicine (CAM). There are a number of different disciplines, each of them with their own philosophy and practices. Most have been shown to have some positive effects in pain control, relaxation, mood control and general well-being. Specific massage therapies have also shown benefits that may be related to the relief of stress, or may be due to an unknown factor affected by the massage. In most of these therapies, the unknown factor is some form of `life force’ which the therapy frees from a blockage.
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Below is a list of some of the most popular of the massage therapies, along with any important or unique features of each.
The most well-known and accepted of the manipulative therapies, chiropractic has nearly become a mainstream therapy for the relief of pain, particularly with conditions related to the spine. Chiropractors work with far more than just back pain, and there is evidence to support the use of chiropractic for a diverse number of conditions.
Pronounced ray-kay, Reiki is a Japanese massage therapy that incorporates elements from many other alternative healing practices. It is based on the existence of a universal life energy that is transferred from healer to patient during massage and manipulation. Reiki is a holistic system of healing that incorporates massage as only one element, but it’s the element that is most well-known. Like therapeutic touch and other hands on therapies, Reiki claims to balance the flow of life force and energies in the body, and treat mind, body and spirit at once.
As with other Oriental systems, the Indian Ayurvedic medicine puts emphasis on massage as a therapeutic technique. In Ayurveda, the emphasis is on opening channels to allow the flow of energy and life force throughout the body.
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Combining the principles of treatment with essential oils and the techniques of massage, aromatherapy massage is often used as an adjunct to conventional medical treatment. Depending on the oils and techniques used, the massage can be relaxing, soothing, invigorating or energizing.
A Western massage therapy that seems to borrow from Eastern beliefs and techniques, reflexology is based on the manipulation of areas of the feet, hands and ears to effect therapeutic changes elsewhere in the body.
A distinct field of massage that is aimed at improving sports performance and preventing injury, sports massage is practiced in locker rooms and hospitals.
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A Japanese massage therapy that uses pressure points similar to acupressure massage to assist the flow of qi and promote healing in the body.
Massage therapy is being used in some novel ways throughout the country. Besides being used as treatment for muscle and back pain, to promote relaxation and healing, there are some companies that offer massage as a work-related benefit, and believe that it prevents workplace accidents and injuries through stress relief.