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Massages, do they really contribute to well being?

July 3, 2018

The word massage seems to derive from the Arabic “mass” or “mash” (rub, press) or from the Greek “masso” (kneading, handling). The physical and psychological benefits of this practice have been recognized since ancient times, so that it can certainly be said that medical art began with massage. Not all types of therapeutic massages have the same purpose. Some serve to relax and calm down. Others invigorate and tone the body. Among the long list of possibilities, in addition to the classic “relaxing massage”, there are medical manipulation treatments, which serve a particular rehabilitation purpose. We talk about this topic with Dr. Lara Castagnetti, osteopath and consultant of the rehabilitation area of Humanitas.


Relaxing and non-relaxing massages: What are they and what do they involve?


Reiki: It is a Japanese technique known for “hand imposition” that is based on the theory of energy without scientific validation that energy flows through the hands. However, in this type of massage, contact is minimal.


Lymphatic drainage: This massage, which can be both aesthetic and medical-oncological, is characterized by a slight pressure that is generally performed very slowly. It works on the lymphatic circle in the subcutaneous interstitial space to help drain toxins. Medical lymphatic drainage is used in cases of primary or secondary lymph stasis following surgery or radiotherapy to remove lymph nodes.


Sports massage: This medical massage technique penetrates into the deep layers of the muscle and involves heavy loads on the muscles, tendons and joints, both in preparation and after sport activities.


Scarring massage: It is used to release and make more functional scars and surgical adhesions.


Aesthetic or relaxing massage: The purpose of this type of massage is twofold. On one hand, to eliminate skin and subcutaneous blemishes and to slow down skin aging thanks to the combined use of aesthetic and cosmetic products such as creams and oils. On the other, it provides psychophysical relaxation. The operator acts at the level of the muscular-tendon structures, on the blood circulation and on the nervous system, and therefore on the psyche.

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The cranial-sacral massage: This manipulation technique seeks to relieve pressure along the head and spine. The main goal, among others, is to reduce migraines and head and neck pain.


Myofascial release: It is a therapy suitable for treating the immobility and pain of skeletal muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation and stimulating the stretching of muscles.


Decontracting massage: The decontracting massage is a type of massage that acts in depth on the connective and muscular tissues, with the precise aim of dissolving contractures and, more generally, muscle tensions.


What are the benefits and risks of massage?

Overall, the massage stimulates dopamine, the hormone of “wellness”, while decreasing the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. By helping to relax, the massage can also be used to “nourish” and oxygenate the treated areas through increased blood flow, while transporting toxins that have accumulated in the muscles to the discharge paths. “On the other hand – said Dr. Castagnetti – it is necessary to avoid undergoing a non-medical massage in cases of acute pain, when there are infections or thrombosis in progress, when you are seriously cardiopathic or in case of cancer, unless it is explicitly prescribed by the specialist and part of the therapy”.


Patients receiving medical massage generally have specific problems to work with and wish to produce a release of muscle contractures or scar tissue. It is important in any case, before any manipulation, to mention accidents, surgery, medicines or allergies.

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