To summarise, massage therapy means many different things to different people, especially in various parts of the world which have their own traditions. In the West, massage is predominantly thought of as a physical activity whereby the body is worked on to produce a favourable outcome. Although this is the case in much of the rest of the world, as well, it tends to also have a spiritual dimension, especially in East and South Asia where ideas about energy healing
, universal life force and essential elements are at the forefront of massage therapy. Consequently, there has been a long exchange of ideas and cultures between East and West over the course of the last few decades with traditions like Swedish massage informing Asian masseurs and vice versa.
Although scientific studies have been conducted into some of the more alternative massage therapies around - such as reflexology, for example – comparing how effective they are with western methods rather misses the point about them. What masseurs are doing is something that would be unobservable so it is only the reported outcome that counts. Of course, this leads some people to claim such practices are a pseudoscience with nothing more than a placebo effect. However, the effects of many alternative therapies fall into this category and it has not stopped their popularity from rising in the West for many years with more and more people learning the principles involved. Overall, massage therapy offers a great deal of positivity to people all over the world and, given it has been around for a very long time already, it shows no signs of going away.