Russian Massage, also known as a Russian Sports Massage, focuses on somewhat vigorous techniques that will relieve muscle aches, various pains, and stiffness common to athletes.
However, unlike a typical Sports Massage, the strokes are generally slower and have gentler motions. The use of friction stimulates a heating effect in the body and, when combined with outer vibration techniques, it’s useful for easing sore muscles and joints. While cold restricts blood vessels and organs, heat relaxes and expands them, aiding the body and mind to affectively release tension.
Helpful for use alongside other forms of physical rehabilitation, Russia developed early forms of this type of massage back in the late 1700s, though it was virtually unknown to other countries until the 1980s. It’s sometimes comically portrayed alongside other Russian massage techniques, such as in the movie Last Holiday where the older concepts of “twigging” with birch branches and using hot/cold water almost sound torturous.
These techniques and their effectiveness are easily misunderstood until you delve into the beliefs behind these ideas. Medical practitioners largely accept the use of therapeutic hot/cold treatments nowadays, but the use of birch braches is more difficult to justify. However, just as we prize chamomile and lavender for its favorable herbal properties, birch was regarded as possessing incredibly healing medical benefits as well. Beyond that, it was considered a good way to create a deep friction. Originally used as a regular part of medicine, one still needed to have a prescription by a physician or be an athlete to get these basic massage treatments.
By mid-18th century, Dr. Mudrow introduced a more classic form of massage in Russia, strongly believing that it was a highly effectual and important part of treating any illness. Massage, or “manual therapy” as it was also known, was even used on infants to aid proper development of the mind, bones, muscles, and overall health. Infant massage is not an entirely foreign concept. However, in its Russian form the focus is less on soothing and relaxing strokes and more about fast, yet gentle methods where each part of the body is massaged, including a focus on the spine.
While the rest of the world advanced its medicine with electronics in the 19th century, Russia held fast with its original beliefs that including massage with other medicine was still effective. It is still maintained that massage not only benefits the external, but the internal body as well. Even during World War II, respected Russian physicians continued to use massage in treatment of wounded soldiers.
Nowadays, massage is still regarded as an important part of medicine in Russia and many people firmly believe in the importance of detoxification via saunas/massage to keep a strong immune system. It is still regarded well at hospitals and inpatient medical spas as well, believed to aid any number of ailments and/or dysfunctions. Scientists continue to study and research this form of medicine while still holding onto their original beliefs about massage.
It’s important to remember that this form of massage is definitely not limited to sports, as anyone with sore/tight muscles can experience relief. Additionally, people with respiratory and digestion issues can greatly benefit from Russian Massage. Additionally, its invigorating strokes can even give a significant boost to a slow metabolism, aiding diets and proper absorption of nutrients.