This is part two of a three part series about self care. You can find the first post here about the Benefits of Practicing Yoga. Part three will be coming soon on the Benefits of Chiropractic Care.
Confession: I used to work for a large massage therapy franchise. I learned a lot more about the benefits of massage while working there, but I was drinking the koolaid long before I started my position there and I continue to be passionate about massage today. I can’t say I remember exactly when my first massage was, but I know it was sometime during high school and I have been getting regular massage ever since.
While many people view massage as a luxury, and I do agree that it is one and I have been lucky to be able to get so many massages, I also believe it is a necessity for many people. The overall view of massage has gotten better over the years, but I hope more people especially those that need it most can view it as a necessity and if at all possible, can find the time and money to make it a happen. It can be expensive, but so is medication as well as other not as healthy coping mechanisms that are commonly used for relieving issues or ailments that our bodies and minds experience.
For me, massage has done so much including helping to alleviate the migraine headaches I used to suffer from, helping me sleep better – medication free, relieving stress and anxiety and so much more. I challenge you to change your frame of mind and consider massage as an investment in your health and the following information will touch on why.
Well, when most of us think massage, we think….relax, de-stress and work out those problem areas and those are great benefits alone, but massage can do so much more than that…
I’m not a big fan of medication in general and prefer to choose the natural way when possible instead of masking the problem or altering my natural body chemistry and immune system. Massage therapy has been proven in multiple studies to be just as effective as other treatment methods for chronic back pain and it doesn’t stop there. Research continues to show the enormous benefits of touch—which range from treating chronic diseases, neurological disorders, and injuries, to alleviating the tensions of modern lifestyles. Slowly, the medical community is also embracing bodywork, and massage is becoming an integral part of hospice care and neonatal intensive care units. Many hospitals are also incorporating on-site massage practitioners and even spas to treat post surgery or pain patients as part of the recovery process.
Speaking of immunity, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that massage also boosts patients’ white blood cell count which plays a large role in defending the body from disease. Massage also enhances immunity by stimulating lymph flow which is part of the body’s natural defense system.
If you sit at a desk all day for your job, regular massage can actually counteract the damage from sitting in this position for prolonged periods of time. Naturally, we are not meant to sit at a desk everyday, all day and this causes postural stress as well as creating weakness in the shoulders, glutes and lower back area. This in turn can equal pain and discomfort. Massage can alleviate these painful areas, by improving range of motion while stretching weak, tight or atrophied muscles.
Have trouble sleeping? An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans experience sleep issues that affect their health, often leading to low work performance, slowed reaction time, obesity, higher risk of long-term disease, and substance abuse. The chemistry of sleep is relevant in relation to massage because it directly influences the body’s production of serotonin, which is essential for the production of melatonin. A study on back pain, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, demonstrated that in addition to a decrease in long-term pain, subjects receiving massage experienced improved sleep and an increase in serotonin levels.
Massage is also known to sooth and lessen feelings of depression and anxiety. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that patients who were depressed and anxious were much more relaxed and happy, and had reduced stress levels after massage. Just 60-minutes of massage can lower cortisol, a hormone that’s produced in response to stress, by an average of 30 percent. By lowering cortisol and increasing serotonin, you’re boosting your body’s ability to fight off pain, anxiety and feelings of sadness. Furthermore, clients often report a sense of perspective and clarity after receiving a massage. The emotional balance bodywork provides can often be just as vital and valuable as the more tangible physical benefits.
Massage can also:
- Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers and shorten maternity hospital stays
- Ease medication dependence
- Help athletes of any level prepare for, and recover from, strenuous workouts
- Improve the condition of the body’s largest organ—the skin
- Increase joint flexibility
- Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks
- Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation
- Reduce post-surgery adhesions and swelling
- Reduce spasms and cramping
- Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles
- Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller
- Relieve migraine pain
The power of touch is truly amazing as you just read or possibly already know. I encourage you to continue to learn even more about the benefits of massage and research any particular ailments or troubles you may be suffering from to see if and how massage can help. For me, getting regular massage is something I prioritize as part of my healthy lifestyle and routine. To keep my mind and body balanced and in tip top shape. Taking care of ourselves is so important and sometimes it’s easy to forget this in the busy world we currently live in. Take a moment for yourself…for your health. In turn, those around you that you care about most will benefit in the best way, by having you around as long as possible, in your healthiest happiest form.
Lots of love and good health,
Tasha, The Non-Toxic Newbie