massage (məsäzhˈ) [key], treatment of superficial parts of the body by systematic rubbing, stroking, kneading, or slapping. Massages can be administered manually or with mechanical devices. They are sought most often to relieve muscle stiffness, spasms, or cramps and to relieve anxiety and tension. Gentle massage has a soothing action on the sensory nerves. More vigorous massage quickens the circulation and aids the muscles in disposing of accumulated waste products. Some methods of massage cause the muscles to contract and thus exercise them when movement of the entire body is not possible or desirable, as in illness or paralysis. However, there is no evidence that massage can reduce or alter fat or adipose tissue. Men and women who are trained in the art of massage are known as masseurs and masseuses, respectively.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.