Although we can never be certain where the word “massage” came from, what we know for sure is that massage therapy provides incredible benefits for those who experience it. Some believe that “massage” came from the ancient Greek word “massin”, which means to knead, while others believe that it came from “mashesh,” a Hebrew word which means to press. Some of the most ancient documented touch therapies can be traced back as far back as 2500 years ago. All of these ancient bodywork treatments had oriental influences that current therapists are utilizing to come up with their own versions, including lymphatic drainage, deep tissue, sports massage, and acupressure.

Many people in the Western world and other countries outside of Asia enjoy the benefits of traditional Chinese therapy. A few of the most popular of these Asian therapies include Thai massage, acupressure, and shiatsu. In theory, the practice of oriental medicine is focused on a holistic treatment to balance the spirit, mind, and body as a whole and to prevent the development of disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practiced for longer than three thousand years. It is an energetically-based form of treatment utilizing the 5 elements of earth, metal, wood, fire, and water to combat health problems. It mostly follows a Taoist philosophy in which everything is connected with each other and we have the power to influence them.

Although a lot different from Western methods, several of the healing treatments we use today have their origins in these ancient healing modalities. Modern physiotherapy was founded by an Anma student who inculcated them into the techniques of traditional Chinese medicine. Practiced for thousands of years old, the healing art of Anma is a Chinese form of massage designed to balance the body. Two thousand years ago, it was widely used in the time of Emperor Huang. It is now called Tuina, which uses the push/pull technique to balance and align the body. Anma is actually made up of two words: “an” means “to press” and “mo” means “to rub.” On the other hand, Tuina is comprised of two words: “tui” means “to push” and “na” means “to grasp”, ergo, the push/pull technique. All current osteopathic and chiropractic studies were shaped by a Japanese body correction treatment known as Seitai that was practiced during the Meiji era (18th century).

Amatsu, a 5000 year old Japanese body work therapy designed to improve movement and align the posture is one other Japanese version of anma that has applications still appropriate today. In Korea, there is Jin Shin Do, Su Jok, and Jin Shin Jyutsu, all ancient therapies that can help harmonize the body through gentle touch. Most of these modalities combine the same philosophies, eliminating the three causes of illness: stagnation, excess, and deficiency and focusing on meridians or energy channels.

These days, lots of oriental therapies have been integrated into the modern world. The Stanford Cancer Center has now integrated Thai massage (Nuad Bo’rarn) and Shiatsu into their cancer treatment program. Using touch and being touched as a healing therapy brings about an inherent calming reaction. These alternative healing modalities has been utilized by the Stanford Cancer Center to boost the emotional and physical well being of their patients, with a high degree of effectiveness. Obviously, they are only used with the approval of a doctor, and are not intended to be replacements to conventional cancer therapy. If necessary, talk about with your doctor other options, as most medical professionals now have a favorable view of combining massage therapy with Western conventional cancer therapy.

A lot of experienced massage therapists have applied the positive aspects of various therapies in order to come up with their own style and connection with their clients. It doesn’t matter if they’re client is a one-time patient or a regular patron of massage therapy. The responsibility of the therapist is to keep on educating himself or herself, so that the therapist can pass on that knowledge on to their clients and better help them to achieve whatever objectives they are pursuing with us.

Lots of therapists are attracted to the theory and mystery of eastern massage and lifestyle practices. Some have spent some time in Southeast Asia just to learn traditional Thai massage, from very experienced teachers and healers of this ancient healing technique. Some of them have studied, tested and experimented with various protocols and theories of Thai massage. Most of these therapies have been combined in order to create a Yogic massage system known as Ki Shen Heiken, which generally means “energy of balance and spirit “. Ki Shen Heiken consists of Swedish style massage, deep compression, rocking, acupressure, stretching, pulling, and pushing therapies. A few practitioners have developed a protocol that uses balancing rope or bars tied over the massage table. The therapist uses this to do manipulations whilst balancing on and above the body.

There are several other treatments that use an Asian bar system. Integrating rocking compression and Thai stretching techniques as well as holistic relaxation of several different therapies have proved quite successful for most of my clients. They received greater and additional benefits than they had originally expected from an alternative treatment. I have also added thermal therapy along with traditional Thai Herbal ball compressions, to augment healing and relaxation. Some therapists will have their have clients try new therapies and widen both the clients’ massage knowledge and spa experience, creating a long-term and more sophisticated client. This type of therapy will bring about physical benefits that include open wind channels, increased flexibility, release of emotional and physical tension, and body alignment. The objective of opening wind channels is to dispel the infiltration of wind in the meridians that can lead to colds, sinus problems, headaches, and imbalance in the body.

Amy-SuiQun Lui, L.Ac. is a Board Certified and Licensed Acupuncturist in Cleveland, OH.