Massage therapy uses a series of pressured movements to manipulate soft tissue in the body. A massage therapist may use a variety of techniques, with the type of massage given usually depending on your physical condition and needs.
Massage therapy can be a beneficial tool at any stage of life. Whether you are dealing with the stress and aches of daily activities or a chronic health condition, there is an expanding body of evidence showing that massage therapy can help.
While we do not have a complete picture of how massage works, studies show positive results. Massage therapy can help the body to function more efficiently. It can improve muscle, joint, skin, cardiovascular and nervous system health. Massage therapy is also being used more for a wide range of medical conditions. Massage therapy can:
Relieve stress and promote relaxation. Stress takes a physical and emotional toll. Experts estimate that up to 90% of disease is stress-related. Massage therapy can reduce stress and stress-related conditions by regulating the body’s sympathetic nervous system and lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Improve sleep. Massage decreases cortisol and increases the mood-balancing neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine for more restful sleep.
Reduce muscle tension and pain. Massage therapy can soften and relax tight, tired, weak, strained and injured muscles. It also relieves cramping and spasms as well as increasing range of motion.
Counteract those imbalances that often show up in the shoulders, neck, low back and gluteal muscles due to postural stress from sitting and our other daily activities.
Enhance exercise performance. Athletes of all levels may benefit from massage therapy when preparing for or recovering from strenuous workouts. Massage therapy can also help with sports injuries and injury prevention.
Improve cardiovascular health. Massage therapy may improve circulation, pumping oxygen and nutrients into organs and tissues. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure.
Promote nervous system functioning. Massage therapy can reduce muscle atrophy by stimulating the nervous system. It also quiets the nervous system to ease muscle tension and spasms as well as headaches.
Stimulate the functions of the skin. The condition of the skin may be improved with massage by promoting tissue regeneration, and reducing stretch marks and scar tissue.
Manage low-back pain. Everyday activities such as sitting at a desk, carrying a wallet or wearing high heels can impact how your body feels and performs. Most of us will experience back pain at some point that interferes with our work and daily activities, and sometimes this pain becomes chronic. Massage therapy has been shown to alleviate low-back pain and increase range of motion. It can also help relieve chronic neck pain.
Relieve tension headaches and migraine pain. Book a massage the next time you get a headache. Multiple studies have shown that tension and migraine headaches respond to massage therapy, decreasing both the frequency and severity. Additionally, massage therapy can reduce the stiffness and pain caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Reduce postoperative pain. Massage therapy can help with the recovery process, reducing adhesions and swelling, as well as increasing blood flow to help with wound healing. Massage therapy can also reduce lower joint replacement pain and improve range of motion.
Provide prenatal and infant care. Massage therapy can help ease and shorten labor as well as shorten maternity hospital stays. Neonatal intensive care units have recognized massage’s power of touch in improving weight gain. Massage therapy can also help infants to cry less and sleep more.
Boost immunity. Massage therapy stimulates lymph flow, the natural defense system of the body. It can increase the activity level of the body’s natural T cells to fight off bacteria and viruses. Additionally, massage therapy may increase white blood cell count, which also plays a role in defending the body from disease. It might be effective, therefore, in treating autoimmune conditions and improving immune function for individuals with HIV and autoimmune conditions.
Reduce cancer symptoms and the side effects of treatment. Massage therapy promotes relaxation and sleep in those undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. It may help reduce pain, swelling, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression. It can also provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ) and myofascial pain syndrome.
Improve quality of life. With the power of touch, massage therapy is an integral part of hospice care. It can also temper the effects of dementia.
Despite its benefits, massage isn't meant to replace conventional medical care. If you’re dealing with a health condition, let your doctor know you are trying massage. This will ensure coordinated and safe care.
Boost mood. Massage has been shown to reduce anxiety and ease the symptoms of depression. Studies have shown that massage can lower cortisol levels by half, and increase levels of happiness-inducing neurotransmitters. You may also notice improved clarity and concentration, and even better job performance and self-esteem.
In addition to all of the benefits listed above, some people enjoy the pampering of massage and its feelings of comfort, care and connection.
Schedule regular appointments with a licensed massage therapist to reduce stress, relieve discomfort, feel more relaxed, and have a more efficiently functioning body. Consider massage therapy to be a vital part of your wellness plan and feeling great.