People use massage therapy for a variety of purposes, from supporting natural healing of various health conditions to general wellness. There are more than 80 types of massage therapy. In all of them, therapists press, rub and otherwise manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. They most often use their hands and fingers, but may use their forearms, elbows or feet. Typically, the aim of massage is to relax the soft tissues, increase delivery of blood and oxygen to the massaged areas, warm them and decrease pain.

Swedish, deep-tissue, trigger-point and shiatsu are four popular types of massage. In shiatsu, the therapist applies varying rhythmic pressure from the fingers on parts of the body that are believed to be important for the flow of vital energy, called qi, in traditional Chinese medicine. Massage therapy dates back thousands of years. References to massage have been found in ancient writings from many cultures, including those of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Japan, China, Egypt and the Indian subcontinent.

In the U.S., massage therapy first became popular and was promoted for a variety of health purposes starting in the mid-1800s. In the 1930s and 1940s, massage fell out of favor, mostly because of scientific and technological advances in medical treatments. Interest in massage revived in the 1970s, especially among athletes. According to recent reviews, people use massage for a wide variety of health-related intents — pain relief, support for healing sports injuries, stress reduction, aid for anxiety and depression and for general wellness.

(SOURCE: NCCAM, National Institutes of Health)

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