“Touch: simple physical act or healing art?” (Cont’d from prev)..)

As by now you will be aware, almost the entire ‘thrust’ of each blog contained in this compendium has focused around or upon an application of therapeutic methods of psychosocial support. In the main however, I have confined such descriptive and explanatory accounts to those with which I have had direct or indirect experience, thus enabling me to write with conviction and authority. In truth, I have had absolutely no experience of any kind with TT as a formal healing method or coping strategy and therefore will need in this instance to rely entirely upon reports supplied by others. On the other hand (since in this blog I am also attempting to provide an overall review of healing propensities entailed in touch and contact by use of the hands) it seems reasonable in this particular instance, to be making such – albeit brief – reference to Therapeutic Touch here.

By the same token as that evident in the preceding paragraph, we should also encompass in this letter some account – albeit brief – of the art of massage. This form of therapy (which incidentally, it genuinely is) is one of the oldest recorded healing practices in the history of man and its use was recorded in the Far and Middle East as far back in time as 3000 BC. Whilst massage can in no sense be described as a cure for specific ailments, it certainly does possess adjunctive powers capable of relaxing both body and mind, via the relief of the strains and tensions of daily living. In the fifth century BC, Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine” counselled that the way to health was by means of “A scented bath and a massage each day” and on another occasion, he extolled the virtues of “rubbing” stating, “Rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose and loosen a joint that is too rigid”.

In later history, the Christian Church’s unease with anything that either ‘smacked’ of “indulgence” or appeared to venerate attention to the body produced a dip in the fortunes of massage, especially in the Western World. However, in recent times there has been a resurgence of interest in its undoubted therapeutic merits. The early 19th century Swedish athlete and gymnast Per-Henrik Ling devised and developed the aesthetic and scientific principles of what thereafter became known as “Swedish massage”. Ling grounded his new ‘invention’ (which now forms the basis of the most modern Western massage techniques) in anatomy, as well as on various ancient massage principles.

A further notable advance was made in the 1970s, when George Downing, an American massage therapist, published “The Massage Book”. This volume formulates the idea of massage as a holistic (Greek “holos” meaning whole) therapy, i.e. physical, mental and emotional. Incidentally, it also incorporates into its system of beliefs and techniques, two other well-known massage therapies, namely, Reflexology and Shiatsu. In essence, massage takes four forms, namely effluerage (a light but firm stroking) petrissage (or kneading and rolling of soft tissue) tapotement (drumming, tapping and clapping) and friction (applied pressure/rubbing in a circular fashion with the fingers or the heels of the hands).

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