Issue 7

Hand and Foot Massage

I was pleased to be invited to attend the Men´s Group to give a demonstration of the hand massage that I had been trained to use in my previous post. I was initially very anxious about giving a talk about the history, benefits etc. of massage, though this was allayed by the relaxed and informal nature of the group. Geoff Barry had volunteered to be the recipient of the massage and would give the group feedback as the massage progressed, evaluating the benefits on completion.

The previous NHS Trust in which I´d worked had looked at introducing the use of complementary therapies, deciding that hand and foot massage would be adopted. Aromatherapy was not pursued, largely due to a lack of research into the interaction between aromatic oils and medications. A ten-week course, certificated by the Trust was then introduced. Basic hand and foot massage was taught using grapeseed oil, almond oil or talcum powder. A basic knowledge of the physiological effects and awareness of contra-indications e.g. open wounds, thrombosis and pregnancy, were included.

The basis of massage is touch. Therapeutic touch has been researched and the benefits are outlined as improved circulation, the relaxation of muscles, an aid to digestion, stimulation of the lymphatic system and the production of endorphins. The psychological benefits include a feeling of being cared for. These combine to leave the recipient feeling relaxed, with an overall feeling of well-being.

Massage is one of the oldest forms of medical treatment and has been used throughout history by all cultures. Ancient Chinese, Indian, Greek and Roman literature give reference to massage being used to relieve melancholia, asthma, convalescence etc. During the 18th and 19th centuries massage grew in popularity throughout Europe. The work of Pen Henrik Ling (1776-1839) was world-renowned, setting up institutes in Stockholm, London and, by the turn of the century, Russia, France and America. Unfortunately, "houses of ill fame" also used the word massage to cloak their activities. To counter this, a group of professionals banded together to form "The Society of Trained Masseurs ". They were the founders of "The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy ". After the First World War, massage was used to treat "shell-shock " and nerve damage. Its popularity diminished later due to advances in medication and use of electrical apparatus.

Once again, the therapeutic value of massage is being recognised, being adopted as a complementary therapy alongside medication and other treatments to promote and maintain physical and mental health. During the period that I practiced hand and foot massage, I received positive from clients. Consultants would prescribe a course of massage i.e. similarly to the provision of support time within this Unit, or it was used as a one-off intervention to alleviate distress and anxiety. This appeared to work very well.

When looking at complementary therapies it is advisable to experience the benefits in order to make an informed choice. I would like to thank the Men´s Group for inviting me and will leave Geoff Barry to report on the benefits.

By: Val Stead