I tend to look at massage therapy independently of broader types of treatment, healing or other restorative practices or systems. I tend to do this because I’m cautious about allowing massage to be classified as a conventional treatment versus an alternative treatment.
There are a number of professionals who cringe when they see massage therapy lumped in with “alternative” practices like acupuncture, chiropractic or naturopathic wellness. To some these smack of quackery, fakery or, sometimes, lunacy. I feel that this aversion to association with other medical practices is intense but I concede that a massage treatment purist could develop this type of phobia.
On the other hand, more amenable massage therapists abhor linking massage exclusively with clinical treatments like physical therapy or other types of rehabilitation. There’s some resentment to the incorporation of massage therapy into conventional medicine only because they think that massage could be seen as simply a process.
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This view strikes me as a little vindictive but given the historic perspective of the mainstream medical industry towards another medical community, some bitterness can be anticipated. I’d hate to see massage go the way of today’s politics that try to label every political perspective as either conservative or liberal.
It is neither traditional nor alternative. Frankly, traditional medicine is, in reality, an”alternative” to massage when seen in a historic context. The first documented description of massage for a technique or treatment dates back to 3,000 B.C. China. The Chinese thought that all illness was because of an imbalance of “Qi” inside the body. The inequitable distribution of the”life force” or “life energy” was blamed for the majority of ailments and this doctrine was absorbed and integrated by Japanese Buddhist monks to Japanese massage methods.
At exactly the exact same time, similar approaches were evolving in India, finally becoming the practice of Ayurvedic medicine, or the”arts of life,” which also used massage as an instrumental recovery methodology. Greeks, Romans and even Native Americans highly appreciated not only the curative, but also the true healing value of massage. But with the arrival of the industrial era and the growth of modern scientific inquiry, massage has been relegated to the record of unenlightened, unsophisticated medical clinics.
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In my view, however, to dismiss the medicinal and curative benefits of massage was to dismiss the wisdom of the Ancients. The lack of contemporary scientific diagnostic practices and the inability to inspect the physical being at the cellular level, driven the oldest physicians to have a macro view of the individual since a micro perspective was inaccessible. That macro perspective and the knowledge garnered through the ages remains the nature of the practice of this ancient art of massage.
That’s not to say that the more clinical contemporary approach to massage is without merit. On the contrary, modern research has validated a lot of the previously unsubstantiated claims of other practitioners. Scientific studies have confirmed the efficacy of massage in relieving some depressive symptoms, changing the immune system, controlling pain and reducing stress. As stress is recognized as the precipitator of numerous medical problems, doctors are less reluctant to recommend massage as part of a general regime to address certain problems.
So I echo the plea of Rodney King when he asked, “Can’t we all just get along?” Massage does not require the blessing of the medical institution to maintain its place among the healing arts, thank you. Nor is it the exclusive therapeutic domain of the alternative community. I’m comfortable with claims that massage can benefit the entire person and I welcome the recognition of the scientific examiners who systematically study the advantages of touch for recovery. But I intend to plant myself firmly in the center and surrender to no specific ideology of massage therapy. I endorse massage for what it does.