Massage therapy isn’t just for the rich and famous. Anyone can get a massage, and the benefits are many. Today, people from all walks of life enjoy peaceful and therapeutic massages in the comfort and privacy of their homes, workplaces, hotel rooms, hospitals, clinics—and even airports.
Your massage therapist can help you relax, provide physical therapy, and assist in healing chronic conditions. No matter what your needs, you can benefit from accessing a professional massage therapist.
What Is Massage Therapy?
Your massage therapist may specialize in a number of potent methods and techniques, such as:
Deep Tissue Massage: You can speed up your recovery from traumas like back strain and whiplash. Deep tissue massages also help people who suffer from migraine headaches.
Swedish Massage: Your therapist can help you energize and relax your body and mind with this popular style of massage. According to the Swedish Cancer Institute, massage stimulates nerves, increases blood flow, and soothes cancer symptoms.
Prenatal Massage: You can get massages as your pregnancy progresses, while you’re in labor, and after giving birth. Prenatal massages increase circulation, reduce swelling, and decrease back pain.
Sports Massage: Regular sports massages keep you flexible to improve performance, prevent injury, and recover quickly.
Chair Massage: While fully clothed, you can get an upper-body massage in a specially-designed, portable massage chair.
The Benefits of Massage Therapy
Your massage therapist can help you:
- Relax your body and mind
- Soothe your anxiety and headaches
- Get physical therapy for soft tissue strains
- Recover from sports injuries
- Heal chronic conditions
- Cure stress-related insomnia
- Improve your digestion and soothe irritable bowel syndrome
- Treat fibromyalgia-related mood, memory, and fatigue symptoms
- Relieve temporomandibular and myofascial joint and muscle pain
Getting regular massages can greatly increase your recovery speed after an injury. A certified, professional massage therapist can work with your doctor to create a physical therapy plan for you that includes deep tissue massage. Researchers have found that massage therapy decreases pain in patients after breast cancer treatments, heart surgery, rectal/colon surgery, etc.
Massage therapy can help your body heal after injuries, surgeries, and traumas by freeing up scar tissue to increase flexibility and function. If you’re undergoing treatment for an auto-immune disease or recovering from a major surgery (or other intervention), your massage therapist can help your body process and drain lymph fluid, which helps improve your immune response. If your doctor has prescribed drugs or other treatments for chronic constipation, consider adding abdominal massage to your wellness plan. Experts have shown that massage can help manage the pain of migraine headaches, arthritis, sciatica, and fibromyalgia—as well as childbirth.
If you experience serious and debilitating migraine headaches, talk with your massage therapist about your options. Between migraine attacks, you can treat the dizziness, pain, and vomiting of migraines with deep tissue massage. Your massage therapist can work on your upper back, neck, shoulders, and the base of your skull. Researchers at the University of Miami found that these techniques helped migraine sufferers sleep better, raised their serotonin levels, and (in two-thirds of patients) prevented future migraine attacks for an entire month. During a migraine attack, massage may not be appropriate, but techniques that increase circulation to the hands and feet can reduce painful blood pressure in your head, which may limit the severity of migraine headaches.
The Risks of Massage Therapy
Massage therapists provide non-invasive, non-narcotic pain relief to people who are coping with many different injuries and diseases, including cancer. However, massage therapy isn’t for everyone. If you suffer from deep-vein thrombosis, for example, you may want to avoid massage due to a small risk of releasing blood clots within your body.
Always be sure to work with a licensed, trained, and experienced professional massage therapist. An amateur could exert too much pressure on your body and cause nerve damage. Your massage therapist must also follow proper sanitary procedures to avoid transmitting infections between patients. Shop around, ask your friends, and find a trusted professional to provide your bodywork.
As with any other intervention, ask your doctor if massage therapy is right for you. Your physician can provide you with a list of massage therapists, including those who specialize in treating people undergoing medical care, such as cancer patients.
Treat Stress, Tension, and Inflammation with Massage Therapy
Stress is your physical, mental, and emotional reaction to challenging events. Known as the fight-or-flight response, this automatic physiological system kicks in whenever you feel threatened. Though your stress response can sometimes create positive outcomes, it typically damages your body and mind when you experience it chronically.
Massage facilitates comfort, healing, and pain relief, and it counteracts the effects of stress. When you feel threatened or anxious, you reflexively tense your muscles. Though this response protects you from pain and injury in crisis situations, it can go too far. For emotional or environmental reasons, you may constantly feel “on guard.” This chronic stress triggers your body to tense up even when you aren’t in danger.
Chronic stress and tension cause a host of problems in your body, including:
- Respiratory issues: To fight an attacker or flee from danger, your stress response speeds up your breathing. Acute stress can cause asthma or panic attacks, which are especially dangerous for people with respiratory ailments like emphysema. If you suffer from any of these conditions, lower your body’s stress hormone levels with regular massage therapy.
- Cardiovascular damage: The high blood pressure, elevated stress hormone levels (cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline), and increased blood cholesterol associated with your fight-or-flight response can lead to hypertension, strokes, and heart attacks. For people with reduced cardiovascular function, massage can return life-giving circulation and function to extremities like hands, legs, and feet.
- Inflammation: Chronic stress causes inflammation in many parts of your body. For example, stress-related inflammation of your coronary arteries can increase your risk of heart attack. Researchers have found that massage decreases inflammation in muscles damaged by exercise and promotes cell metabolism. Fibromyalgia sufferers also benefit greatly from massage therapy.
- Diabetes: Stress causes your liver to raise your body’s glucose levels (giving you the energy to run away from danger). However, some people have trouble reabsorbing this blood sugar and become diabetic. Some diabetics can lower their blood sugar levels without medication with stress reduction techniques such as massage.
- Sexual dysfunction: Chronic stress can lead to infertility, impotence, and decreased arousal in both men and women. Because a relaxing massage can reduce your anxiety about coping with life, your body and mind feel safe to focus on intimacy. Consider a soothing couple’s massage as part of your next romantic getaway.
Modern researchers are finding out more and more about the dangers of stress and how massage can help your body cope. Your massage therapist can help you release stress and anxiety by creating flexibility in your body’s soft tissues: muscles, tendons, connective tissues, ligaments, and skin.
Massage Therapy for Wellness
Experts have proven that massage therapy helps people with a wide variety of medical conditions. Massage also improves mental and emotional health by treating many stress-related diseases. Check with your doctor, find a professional massage therapist, and give your body and mind the soothing, therapeutic body work they deserve.