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[Subterm of Manipulative therapies]


Massage is one of the oldest forms of treatment. It refers to the manipulation of the soft tissue of entire anatomic areas using pressure and traction. The development of modern massage is attributed to the Swede Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839), who developed an integrated system consisting of massage and exercises. The classic massage (later termed “Swedish massage”)  gradually declined but increased again in the 1970’s.


Conditions frequently treated are back pain, other musculoskeletal disorders, constipation, anxiety, depression, stress and many other conditions. During an initial treatment session, the therapist will usually take the patient’s medical history to get an overall impression of the medical status and screen for contraindications. Touch is fundamental to massage therapy and allows the therapist to locate areas of muscle tension.


Massage is applied using various manual techniques including pressure and traction to manipulate the tissues of the body. Usually the massage is performed on a specially designed massage table. Therapists often oil the skin to facilitate movement of their hands over the patient’s body. The treatment conveys a sense of caring (using touch with the optimal amount of pressure for each person).

Other types of massage

In 1928, a new type of massage, connective tissue massage, was developed by Elisabeth Dicke (1884-1952). It was based on the observation that increased resistance and sensitivity of specific skin locations correspond with a particular diseased state. The relationship between internal organs and specific skin areas was discovered by Head (1900). Such treatment depressed pain and stimulated healing.

Another form of therapeutic manipulation is Craniosacral therapy. This technique was developed in the 1970’s by J.E. Upledger. It focuses on movement restrictions within the sutures of the skull.

A special type of manipulative therapy closely related to massage is the Reflex therapy or Reflexology. This therapeutic method uses manual pressure applied to specific areas or anatomic zones that are known to correspond to certain areas of the body that can facilitate treatment of specific physical disorders. Foot reflex therapy can treat organs, muscles and other components represented on the foot. Other areas of representation of body functions are found on the hand and ear. Bodily functions can be influenced by stimulating these areas with pressure or massage which activates a reflex mechanism involving nerves or meridians (acupressure). Reflexology may be used together with other techniques. Other related therapies include ear acupuncture (Auriculotherapy) and Korean hand acupuncture.

Two forms of Chinese manuel (manipulative therapy) form an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Tui na is a technique which refers to a hands-on body treatment that facilitates a return of the body to balance. The practitioner utilizes various types of massage including stimulation of acupressure points. Gua Sha refers to a therapeutic manipulation of the skin by scraping or rubbing oil applied to the skin. Scraping is applied in areas of discomfort using special tools.