Are you the kind of person who just goes for a massage in any massage parlor as long as they provide these services but you have no idea whether they are experts at it or not? And, did you know that getting a massage from unqualified people poses serious health risks?
Dr Eric Mutabazi, the head of the physiotherapy department at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, says massage therapy is the use of massage techniques to treat disorders of the human body, promote healing, improve clinical outcomes and encourage higher levels of wellness. He says professionally trained massage therapists use touch to manipulate the tissues of the body in a skilled, sensitive and compassionate way.
According to Dr Jean Damascene Gasherebuka, a physiotherapist at King Faisal Hospital, it is important for someone giving the massage to know which kind to offer depending on the situation.
“For instance, there is therapy massage that needs examining the patient and knowing where exactly they have the pain. There is also relaxation massage which is good for everyone especially for people who over work or those who are stressed,” he says.
However, Gasherebuka advises people to only trust massage experts because bad or wrong massages can lead to issues like getting paralysed, back pains, blood clots and fractures since some parts of the body are delicate and do not need to be over pressed for example the veins, spine and many others.
He says some massage machines are dangerous especially if they vibrate near the heart, particularly if used by inexperienced people.
Gasherebuka warns that someone can even die if the spine is tampered with.
Dr Gerald Luzindana, the wellness specialist at Amazon Wellness Center Ltd in Gasobo-Remera, says if massage is done by inexperienced people, it can cause tissue damage more especially for light muscles which may result into stiffness and pain.
“It is said that offering massage to a pregnant mother before 16 weeks can cause complications, for women with a history of miscarriage due to the fact that the foetus has not been properly formed yet,” hs says.
Luzindana also says that inexperienced people can fail to manage the pressure (touch) and therefore can bruise a client.
He says babies and people with pathological disorders have to be treated for a shorter period and with little pressure exertion. “So when someone is inexperienced, they can damage their tissues because such categories of clients have a tender skin.”
Body parts to avoid
Mutabazi says breasts, sexual organs, the popliteal fosa and auxiliary cavities should not be massaged because of the hypersensitivity of their nerves.
Bones should not be massaged because massage only caters for muscles yet bones are only supposed to be exercised through motion, adds Luzindana.
He says arm pits and other sensitive areas of the body are not supposed to be massaged, and where it is done, the pressure on the skin has to be low reason being that such areas have a tender skin and might bruise easily.
Luzindana also explains that the spinal cord is another part that is not supposed to be massaged due to its sensitivity, and if not handled cautiously can result in misalignment of discs.
Benefits of massage
Luzindana says the benefit of massage varies from person to person, but it is essential for basic physical quality and body wellness.
He says massage is among the best options for pain relief.
“Massage also improves the tone of the skin by enhancing the absorption of nutrients in the body,” says Luzindana.
He adds that massage therapy enhances sleep and treats insomnia; helps in the proper circulation of blood, and facilitates the proper function of the digestive system through promoting the flexibility of the stomach muscles.
Mutabazi says research shows that massage therapy can help decrease autoimmune illnesses and enhance immune function.
He adds that massages increase the range of motion and flexibility, and helps people respond better to medical procedures and other related therapies.
Mutabazi notes that massage therapists use different techniques to address a variety of ailments.
“Specific techniques can help treat some diseases. For example, respiratory disorders such as sinus pressure can be relieved through trigger point release,” he says.
Mutabazi adds that congestive chest symptoms can be relieved through tapotement.
“The procedure can also be used to relieve neurological and muscular disorders such as headaches, migraines, neck pain, tennis elbow, low back pain, and frozen shoulder. Pain associated with osteoarthritis, tendonitis or menstrual symptoms can be addressed through cranio-sacral release, Swedish massage, myofascial release and a variety of other techniques,” he explains.
He also says digestive disorders such as constipation can be relieved through abdominal massage techniques, while post-operative pain and lymphedema can be addressed with lymphatic drainage.
The right way to massage
Mutabazi says a massage therapy session usually lasts about 50 minutes.
He says the lighting in the room should be low and subtle to help create a sense of relaxation before the massage even begins. Gentle, soothing music plays in the background throughout the massage.
“The right way to massage is to assess why someone needs a massage in the first place, however there are specific techniques and sequences that are supposed to be employed in order for a massage to go well,” says Luzindana.
He says one has to follow the contraindication chart to best offer massage therapy. The massage has to be timed to avoid body overstimulation and it is better to assess and select a particular one that suits a client’s needs, he adds..
“Massage requires supervision by a professional physiotherapist in order to minimise errors.”
Mutabazi says the five main Swedish massage techniques as they were developed by Swedish doctor Per Henrik Ling, a teacher of medical-gymnastics are effleurage (form of massage involving a circular stroking movement made with the palm over different areas of the body.
He adds that they are long sweeping strokes that alternate between firm and light pressure and can be performed using the palm of the hand or the fingertips. The knots and tension in the muscles tend to get broken with this massage technique.
“The second one is petrissage. This is the technique of kneading the muscles of the body to attain deeper massage penetration, the thumbs and the knuckles of the fingers are used to knead the muscles of the body and to squeeze them to prepare them for the other Swedish massage techniques that follow,” explains Mutabazi.
He adds that the next one is tapotement or rhythmic tapping. This technique of Swedish massage, as the name suggests, consists of rhythmic tapping that uses the fists of the cupped hands. This helps to loosen and relax the muscles being manipulated and also helps to energize them. The sides of the hands are used in this massage technique, he says.
“Friction is the fourth. This move seeks to create heat to bring about relaxation of the muscles, the palms of the hand are rubbed together vigorously with each other, or they are rubbed onto the skin of the person being massaged in order to produce heat by friction. This technique can be used as a warm up for the muscles of the body to be treated for deeper massage,” says Mutabazi.
He says vibration or shaking is the last technique. “This technique helps to loosen up the muscles by using a back and forth action of the fingertips or the heel of the hand over the skin, the muscles of the body are literally shaken up to loosen and relax the muscles. The sides of the hand and any part of the hand such as the tips or heel can be used by the masseuse to shake up the muscles of the person.”
Luzindana says the number of times one can have massage therapy depend on the needs and requirements.
He says some people have massage for sports. In this case, Luzindana says one needs massage at least twice or once a week while, for treatment reasons, one needs to have between 3-4 sessions a week for 15-30 days.