Benefits of Massage
As you lie on the table under crisp, fresh sheets, hushed music draws you into the moment. The smell of sage fills the air and you hear the gentle sound of massage oil being warmed in your therapist’s hands. The pains of age, the throbbing from your overstressed muscles, the sheer need to be touched — all cry out for therapeutic hands to start their work. Once the session gets underway, the problems of the world fade into an oblivious 60 minutes of relief and all you can comprehend right now is not wanting it to end.
But what if that hour of massage did more for you than just take the pressures of the day away? What if that gentle, Swedish massage helped you combat cancer? What if bodywork helped you recover from a strained hamstring in half the time? What if your sleep, digestion and mood all improved with massage and bodywork? What if these weren’t just “what ifs”?
Evidence is showing that the more massage you can allow yourself, the better you’ll feel.
Massage as a healing tool has been around for thousands of years in many cultures. Touching is a natural human reaction to pain and stress, and for conveying compassion and support. Think of the last time you bumped your head or had a sore calf. What did you do? Rubbed it, right? The same was true of our earliest ancestors. Healers throughout time and throughout the world have instinctually and independently developed a wide range of therapeutic techniques using touch. Many are still in use today, and with good reason. We now have scientific proof of the benefits of massage – benefits ranging from treating chronic diseases and injuries to alleviating the growing tensions of our modern lifestyles. Having a massage does more than just relax your body and mind – there are specific physiological and psychological changes which occur, even more so when massage is utilized as a preventative, frequent therapy and not simply mere luxury. Massage not only feels good, but it can cure what ails you.
What You Already Know: The Benefits of Massage
In an age of technical and, at times, impersonal medicine, massage offers a drug-free, non-invasive and humanistic approach based on the body’s natural ability to heal itself. So what exactly are the benefits to receiving regular massage and/or bodywork treatments?
– Increases circulation, allowing the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.
– Stimulates the flow of lymph, the body’s natural defense system, against toxic invaders. For example, in breast cancer patients, massage has been shown to increase the cells that fight cancer.
– Increased circulation of blood and lymph systems improves the condition of the body’s largest organ – the skin.
– Relaxes and softens injured and overused muscles
– Reduces spasms and cramping
– Increases joint flexibility.
– Reduces recovery time, helps prepare for strenuous workouts and eliminates subsequent pains of the athlete at any level.
– Releases endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller – and is being used in chronic illness, injury and recovery from surgery to control and relieve pain.
– Reduces post-surgery adhesions and edema and can be used to reduce and realign scar tissue after healing has occurred.
– Improves range-of-motion and decreases discomfort for patients with low back pain.
– Relieves pain for migraine sufferers and decreases the need for medication.
– Provides exercise and stretching for atrophied muscles and reduces shortening of the muscles for those with restricted range of motion.
– Assists with shorter labor for expectant mothers, as well as less need for medication, less depression and anxiety, and shorter hospital stays.
Good massages may seem like a luxury at $100 a pop, but they may be as important for your health as good diet and regular exercise. Regular massages are a natural way to ease stress and treat or prevent numerous health conditions. You’ll save money in the long run on doctor’s visit and medications just by getting a monthly or weekly massage.
Here is just a sampling of clinical studies finding benefits of massage:
Allergies. By lowering levels of stress, your body makes more cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), a signaling molecule that keeps air passages open and prevents your body from attacking allergens full-force.
Anxiety. Massage may release endorphins, feel good chemicals that may mask negative symptoms like upset stomach, nervousness or racing heart.
Arthritis. Massage releases endorphins, which can help you mask the pain of arthritis and reduce your need for medications. Massage may also increase your flexibility.
Asthma. Massage decreased anxiety and stress-hormone levels in children with asthma and improved airflow.
Athletic performance. The therapist will be able to feel joint or muscle problems you didn’t know you had, preventing further injury through massage or telling you to take a break. Another benefit is that women that sprint and get a 10 minute leg massage afterwards have 49% less muscle stiffness.
Back pain. One study found patients that received massage therapy reduced pain medication use by 36%.
Cancer. 20% of all U.S. cancer patients undergo massage therapy. Breast cancer patients who received massage therapy for 5 weeks had increased energy and felt less angry and depressed. A three year study of 1,290 patients found that even 2 days after a massage, anxiety decreased 52%, pain 40%, fatigue 41%, depression 31% and nausea 21%. This means massage therapy can be effective as pain killers and antidepressants without the need for extra drugs.
If you’re a cancer patient, make sure you let your therapist know you are being treated and only receive light massage. Cancer treatment can reduce blood platelet counts and increase bruising. Avoid getting massaged at the site of radiation or surgery.
Circulation. Massages improve circulation and increases oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells.
Depression. Massage increases serotonin and dopamine levels, giving you an antidepressant effect as effect as taking a drug like Prozac.
High blood pressure. Patients with high blood pressure who received 3 10-minute massage a week for 3 weeks lowered their systolic blood pressure by 11 points.
Immune system. 45 minutes of Swedish massage in healthy adults increased white blood cell count.
Muscle cramps. More blood to muscles means waste products including lactic acid are removed from muscles and fewer muscle cramps occur.
Sports injuries. Massage can relieve pain and stiffness and speed up healing.
Stress. Studies in stressed or depressed adults and children found massage lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol a maximum of 53% immediately afterwards. Another study found 45 minutes of Swedish massage decreases cortisol and arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can increase cortisol levels.
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