What if you could lie down in a quiet room, rest for an hour, and improve your health? With a therapeutic massage, you can experience exactly that. The benefits of regular massage sessions extend far beyond the very pleasant experience of feeling de-stressed and rejuvenated. These benefits include relief in back pain, lowered blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and much more.

Massage has traditionally been viewed as a luxury, but is now considered a valid health treatment that can improve the functioning of the entire body. Whether the intent of a massage is to feel relaxed or whether it is to address a specific health issue, most people can experience some associated long-term benefits.

Research has indicated that therapeutic massage can be beneficial for those with chronic medical conditions, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Fibromyalgia

Therapeutic massage is also beneficial for acute conditions, such as:

  • Back pain
  • Hypertension
  • Migraines, headaches, and PMS

Massage has been shown to alleviate the joint and muscle stiffness that accompanies arthritis.

  • Initially, four weekly massages followed by a regular, monthly massage may significantly reduce the pain and swelling that accompanies arthritis.
  • Tentative studies indicate that massage may help slow the progression of this disease, since massage does not heal the body; it encourages the body to heal itself.

The body’s sleep patterns are regulated in part by hormone levels, such as melatonin and serotonin.

  • Serotonin is vitally important to a regular sleep-wake cycle and massage stimulates the body’s production of serotonin.
  • Regular massage can help reset the body’s sleep-wake cycle without the use of prescription drugs.

Since therapeutic massage stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, the heart rate decreases and the body relaxes. This has the following result:

  • Serotonin levels increase
  • Stress hormones decrease
  • Levels of substance P, a pain transmitter, decrease

Massage will not cure fibromyalgia, and some people may be able to tolerate only the slightest touch. However, the long, gentle strokes of a Swedish massage, even when performed with a very light touch, can provide significant pain relief to those suffering from fibromyalgia.

Back Pain
A study conducted by Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative found that people with back pain experienced the benefits of regular massage for approximately six months after the massage treatments ended. Effects had dissipated by the end of a year after cessation of massage therapy.

Although massage is contraindicated for individuals with uncontrolled high blood pressure, it can help lower blood pressure in those who are temporarily upset or agitated due to stress and similar factors.

  • Massage stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which generates a calming effect on the body as a whole.
  • When the body relaxes during a massage, heart rate slows, circulation is more effective, and stress hormones begin to disappear.
  • Blood pressure decreases and the positive benefit of increased serotonin levels is evident throughout the body.

Migraines, Headaches, and PMS
Tension headaches and migraines may be reduced or alleviated by regular massage therapy sessions. Tension headaches can be triggered by muscular issues or stress, while the exact cause of migraines is unknown. However, both types of headaches can be helped by massage.

Relief of trigger points and tense muscles can prevent a tension headache.

Migraines may be prevented or reduced by the hormonal effects, the stress relief, or the relaxing effects of a Swedish massage.

Types of Massage
Massage can come in many different forms. Some of the techniques are:

  • Swedish massage, which uses long, sweeping strokes and soft to firm pressure
  • Myofascial massage, which uses little to no oil or lotion and is intended to loosen the fascia
  • Tapotement, which uses rapid, cupping, slapping, and tapping motions to improve circulation
  • Deep tissue massage, which uses slow, very firm pressure on damaged muscles
  • Chair massage, which is done while the client is seated
  • Sports massage, which aims for flexibility and recovery

Massage is most beneficial when performed by a licensed therapist. However, self-massage can be beneficial for times when a professional massage isn’t possible. Regular massage helps the body rid itself of metabolic wastes and toxins that accumulate during our routine daily life. It can also provide an emotional benefit due to the one-on-one attention provided by the therapist.

If you enjoy massage but have always considered it a luxury, it’s time to rethink that. Consider a regular massage session as a very pleasant method for maintaining a healthy and happy lifestyle.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Lia Crispell, CRNP