There are a wide variety of forms of massage therapy and bodywork, all with their own theoretical or philosophical perspectives. However, certain basic principles tend to be held in common by all.
Circulation of Blood
Perhaps the most basic principle in this field is that improved blood circulation is beneficial for virtually all health conditions. Tension in the muscles and other soft tissues can impair circulation, resulting in a deficient supply of nutrients and inadequate removal of wastes or toxins from the tissues of the body. This in turn can lead to illness, structural and functional problems, or slower healing. Recognition of the importance of blood circulation is implicit in all forms of massage and bodywork.
Movement of Lymphatic Fluid
The lymph system is almost as extensive as that of the blood. The circulation of lymphatic fluid plays a key role in ridding the body of wastes, toxins, and pathogens. The lymph system also benefits from massage, particularly in conditions where lymphatic flow is impaired by injury or surgery (e.g., in postmastectomy women).
Release of Toxins
Chronic tension or trauma to the soft tissues of the body can result in the build-up of toxic by-products of normal metabolism. Hands-on techniques help move the toxins through the body's normal pathways of release and elimination. Release of Tension. Chronic muscular tension as a result of high stress lifestyles, trauma, or injury can accumulate and impair the body's structure and function. Psychological well being is also affected. Release of tension allows greater relaxation, which has important physiological and psychological benefits. Reduction of Stress. Stress is increasingly believed to induce illness, and perhaps 80 to 90 percent of all disease is stress induced. Massage therapy is an effective non-drug regimen for reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
Many modalities in this tradition work with the flow of energy through the body as a means to promote healing. Energy can be directed or encouraged to move through and around the body in such ways as to have impact on the physical structure and function of the body as well as on emotional well being. This work may involve hands-on contact or may be done with no contact with the physical body.
Enhancement of All Bodily Systems
All bodily systems are affected by better circulation and more harmonious functioning of the soft tissue and musculature. Internal organ systems as well as the nervous system, the immune system, and other systems can benefit. There can be an overall improvement in the quality of life and physical health. Structure and Function Are Interdependent. The musculoskeletal structure of the body affects function and function affects structure. Stress or trauma can adversely alter both. Massage therapy and bodywork can help restore healthy structure and function, thereby allowing better circulation, greater ease of movement, wider range of movement, more flexibility, and the release of chronic patterns of tension.
Mind and body have a reciprocal relationship. Soma (body) affects psyche (mind) and vice versa. Hence there can be somatopsychic effects, in which the conditions of the body affect the mind and emotions, and there can be psychosomatic effects, in which psychological or emotional conditions affect the body. Change in one domain may cause change in the other. A habit or fixed pattern in one may also impede change in the other and require special attention. Often psychotherapy and massage/bodywork complement each other.