There are many stigmas surrounding massage therapy. Of course, massage therapy is a much more respected profession than it used to be but there are still many misconceptions that I come across all the time. It is amazing the number of people I talk to about massage, who seem to think that massage is solely for pleasure and relaxation. Of course, if someone has never been introduced to the art of massage, this is certainly what they assume about it. One of the many aspects that I love about my career is that I get to educate people on just what massage is and its different modalities.
I thought it would be nice to write a blog to focus on all of the many wonderful ways that massage therapy can be an advantage to you, your mind and body, and your health. And because I have worked on clients with a very wide range of ailments – be that physical or mental, I am truly convinced that massage therapy can positively influence many aspects of our beings.
There are so many benefits to massage that it is almost difficult to know where to start. But lets start with some very basic benefits that can be an advantage to anyone and then explain how massage can aid specific populations.
- Humans Biologically Crave Touch- Touch is one of the earliest senses that develops in a fetus. Time and time again it has been proven that when mothers have very frequent skin-to-skin contact with their infants, this greatly assists the baby’s physical cognitive and development. In fact, because of the benefits of simply being touched, it is now an intervention strategy for premature babies worldwide. Basically, we all crave touch and if we don’t get it we fail to thrive.
- Massage Relieves Stress– Did you know that over 50% of people in the U.S. are concerned about health problems due to stress? Massage helps to relieve mental fatigue by promoting deep relaxation. With the release of tight muscles, the client will feel better able to cope with daily situations.
- Massage Increases Circulation– By improving our bodies’ circulation, we also are improving the delivery of nutrients (like blood and lymph), oxygen and arterial blood components to the local area. The oxygen capacity of the blood can increase 10-15% after a massage session!
- Massage Enhances the Condition of Skin– Massage directly improves the function of our sweat glands which keep the skin lubricated, clean and cooled. It also helps to remove dry skin and allows new tissue to form.
- Massage Affects our Internal Organs– By stimulating nerves that supply internal organs, blood vessels of these organs dilate and allow for greater blood supply.
- Massage Helps Prevent Sickness– Getting massage therapy treatments on a semi-regular basis can strengthen the immune system.
- Massage Stimulates Body-Awareness– I think this is one of the most beneficial effects of massage. Massage can stimulate receptors in the skin and muscles that you may have felt cut off from for years. People sometimes do not realize exactly where their pain is until someone puts their hands on them.
- Massage Releases Natural Endorphins– Endorphins are our bodies’ natural pain killers, so the release of these endorphins can reduce physical pain.
- Massage Loosens Scar Tissue– Massage can prevent scarring to some degree by not allowing stagnation of tissue edema following injury.
- MASSAGE FEELS GOOD!
Now, lets look at some more specific populations.
Athletes. As a massage therapist, I work primarily with athletes to help them in their conditioning. Many athletes consider massage as a necessity in their training and recovery. As I mentioned earlier, massage increases circulation in the body and to an athlete this is crucial. This increase in circulation helps to get blood pumping more efficiently throughout the body. This is very important to someone who is very physically active, because they need nutrients and fresh blood to constantly be feeding their muscles.
Have you ever felt soreness or stiffness from an intense work out? Many athletes are constantly training their muscles and are more often than not expeiriencing soreness. So what causes the muscles to get so sore? During a strenuous workout, our muscles will become very slightly torn. Along with these micro-tears, our muscle fibers also experience inflammation due to over exertion. Sports massage therapy treatments help to reduce this inflammation and speed up the healing of those micro-tears because it directly reduces restrictions, which in turn increases muscle function. This allows athletes to get back to their training more quickly and more efficiently.When working with athletes simply for maintenance purposes, massage can greatly increase their all-over Range of Motion and keeps their joints flexible and lubricated.
Senior Citizens. Not only is joint function important for athletes but also for our elderly population. Very often, senior citizens have a gradual decrease in muscle and joint function because over time they become more sedentary. In my experience I have seen that it is very true that “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Becoming less active perpetuates more pain and more immobility so massage can be extremely beneficial to this population since it has been shown to improve muscle tone and help prevent or delay muscular atrophy as a result of forced inactivity. Also, massage increases the bodies’ lymphatic flow, preventing edema that often occurs with inactivity.
Auto-Immune Disease/Deficiency. When I decided to start my own business, I was very surprised that a lot of people were inquiring about massage for Auto-Immune diseases. Now that I have had a lot of experience with this population, I know that massage therapy gives tremendous relief to auto-immune symptoms. Here are some of the diseases/deficiencies that I have worked with:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS)
- Crohn’s Disease
So what defines an auto-immune disorder? Autoimmune diseases arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words, the body actually attacks its own cells. The immune system mistakes some part of the body as something foreign and attacks it.
I have seen great success with cases of auto-immune dysfunction. I first suspected that massage would aggravate these conditions. But because massage does an excellent job at sedating our Central Nervous System (CNS), it helps to calm down the overactive immune response and reduces pain. I heard of a study consisting of Fibromyalgia participants examining the effectiveness of therapeutic touch as a treatment for managing pain. These participants experienced a significant decrease in pain and reported a significant improvement in quality of life.
Auto-immune disorders can be very exhausting emotionally due to the fact that some of them are degenerative and there is no cure for them. I have witnessed clients come out of deep depressions that were fueled by their disease. Massage can cause a variety of sensations, emotions, feelings and mental perceptions that are subjective and difficult to measure. Each of my sessions are unique to every individual.
Depression/Anxiety. Last but not least, let me explain just how massage therapy can benefit those suffering from depression disorders or anxiety. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, depression and sadness in often perpetuated by illness and pain. It truly is a vicious cycle. A person feels physical pain, and they don’t know how to get rid of it. The pain increasingly gets worse and therefore causes mental anguish as well. Also, theoretically, emotions are stored in our muscles. When trauma is inflicted upon our muscles, we store not only physical but emotional pain there. I have seen massage release emotional pain in my clients and its truly astounding.
In cases of depression or anxiety, I often use Craniosacral therapy or Reflexology. These are more energetic modalities that seem to work best with mental exhaustion. They are meditative and relaxing, and I often see a positive shift in my clients after these sessions. Massage helps to literally slow down thoughts and help the person to more easily process them.
I am hoping that I covered most of the important benefits of massage therapy. As I mentioned earlier, there are so many. But if you are experiencing any type of pain, physical or emotional, I recommend trying a massage. It may be just what you need! Call me today to schedule a massage in Salt Lake City @ 801.349.3934.