Many view massages as rewards for a job well done, a break from the daily stress of work and routine. Though they are a great way to relax and unwind after a hectic week, massage therapy benefits can warrant much more than a once-every-three-years’ experience. Massage therapy offers various health benefits including helping to treat illnesses, reducing pain resulting from injuries, and decreasing stress levels.
First of all, what exactly is massage therapy? There are so many different types it can be difficult to know which one should be used for different situations.
Massage therapy essentially involves a licensed therapist pressing, rubbing and manipulating the muscles and other soft tissues of the body with their hands, fingers, elbows, and sometimes even feet. Applying pressure to certain areas of the body (usually in areas around shoulders, upper, middle and lower back) allows the muscles to relax.
There are several different types of massages. The following are the most common:
- Swedish massage: the licensed therapist uses long strokes and kneads deep, circular movements. Also uses vibration and tapping.
- Sports massage: Though similar to a Swedish massage, it caters specifically to athletes suffering from sports-related injuries or pain.
- Deep tissue massage and trigger point massage: focuses on muscle “knots” commonly resulting from high levels of stress. These are usually slightly painful when pressed.
The following are benefits of massage therapy:
- Alleviate lower-back pain and improve range of motion.
- Ease medication dependence.
- Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body’s natural defense system.
- Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
- 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.
- Lessen depression and anxiety.
- 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.
Many chronic diseases affecting Florida residents today are caused by stress. Though it’s often difficult to handle the many pressures in our daily lives, massage therapy can be an effective way to manage or relieve such stress. In fact, many hospitals today use massage therapy to treat post-surgery patients in the recovery process.
Less stress means better quality of sleep, more energy during the day, improved concentration and decreased levels of anxiety. The increased blood flow that occurs after receiving a massage can also improve circulation.
Remember, massage therapy should not replace regular medical care or visiting a health care provider about a medical problem. If you have a medical condition, ask your physician to make sure massage therapy is right for you.
Using this kind of therapy frequently can play a huge role in your health. And while receiving a massage from a licensed professional carries many health benefits, it’s also just great to feel pampered once in a while.
Originally posted in the DOH Online Newsroom 7/24/2013