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Everyone needs to relax, to escape the turmoil of everyday life. Although often ignored or viewed as merely a recreation, the art of massage helps people do just that and has been growing in popularity and acceptance in our modern community.

Massage involves systematic stroking, rubbing and kneading of the soft tissues of the body in an effort to induce a state of total relaxation. Despite common misconceptions, massage is becoming more accepted as a legitimate means to relieve minor medical conditions.

Although the practice of massage has been discredited in the past, mainly by advocates of modern medicine, it has recently been growing in practice. Massage has been shown to maintain stability and enhance performance in nearly all of the body’s major systems. The muscular, skeletal, circulatory, nervous and respiratory systems can be positively affected by massage.

The theory behind massage is the relief of muscle tension, and the relaxation of the body will allow for a faster healing process. It can increase and improve circulation to damaged tissue areas. Those who play sports know that it is important to stretch and relax muscles for peak performance, and the same idea underlies the massage process.

Perhaps the greatest benefits of massage, as any amateur can attest to, are the relaxing effects it can have on tense muscles. The smooth stroking motions and kneading of muscles relieves tension, loosens joints and improves circulation, all of which are beneficial for good health.

Clint Jeppsen, a practitioner at the Eiderdown Therapy Center, can personally attest to some of the benefits of massage.

“The people who come into the center seem to feel good after they leave. The massage reduces pain and leaves people in a better state than when they came in.”

Several Utah State students attest to the healing power of massage. One student, Jennifer Robinson, had personal experience from a professional massage therapist after an accident. “The massage therapy really improved my recovery. It helped to loosen muscles and regain control of my body.” She feels that the therapy she received sped up her recovery. “The time I spent in massage seemed to give me more control of my actions”. Another student, Lanya Jeppson, has had some favorable results with foot-massage, otherwise known as reflexology. “There are many pressure points in the foot, and by pressing the right ones you can relieve tension in various parts of the body.” Most people, even though they may have never received a professional massage, would agree there are some advantageous aspects to a massage.

However it is recommended that people should not replace necessary medical treatment with a massage. Sometimes medical conditions that could easily be cured by a simple medical treatment are overlooked as a simple tight muscle or something similar. Although massage does have positive medical benefits, in many cases it is not a replacement for modern medicine.

The history of massage dates back almost as far as recorded history. For thousands of years some form of massage or laying on of hands has been used to heal the sick. For the ancient Greek and Romans, massage was one of the principle methods of healing and relieving pain.

In the fifth century B.C. Hippocrates, often regarded as the father of modern medicine, said, “The physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in rubbing, for rubbing can bind a joint that is loose and loosen a joint that is bound.” Even Julius Caesar was noted as having been given massage therapy to help cure epilepsy.

Massage is believed to have originated in the East, probably in China. The art of massage was revived in western culture during the 16th century, by a Frenchman named Ambroise Pare. Finally, in 1813, the first massage related college course was offered in Stockholm, Sweden.

Generally, if you are in good health and just feeling a little tense, a massage may be a good way to go. Massage is becoming more accepted, and there is a relationship between a good massage and health. There are multiple techniques in massage and a variety of ways to relax and relieve tension.