Gone are those days when massage therapy was viewed as a luxurious part of a spa day. Massage therapy has quietly grown into mainstream due to the increase in its demand and popularity in recent years. This treatment approach is now a mainstay in modern sports science due to the various medical benefits of massage therapy.
Massage therapy is basically a hands-on technique of manipulating the body’s muscles and other soft tissues in order to improve and maintain a person’s health and wellbeing. It is a clinically proven healthcare option that helps to get rid of the discomfort associated with muscle over-use, everyday stresses as well as many acute and chronic pain conditions.
The modern massage therapist combines his or her knowledge of human anatomy and physiology with modern and traditional swedish massage techniques to treat clients. Though simple, massage therapy is an effective way of improving mental and physical health. Sessions can typically last between 15 and 90 minutes.
Let’s now take a look at some medical benefits of massage therapy……
Levels of stress hormones( cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine) in the body are reduced with the help of massage therapy. The relaxation of muscles through massaging helps to reduce the tension build-up in those muscles. Regular massage sessions also boost energy levels and stimulates the body emotionally and physically.
Alleviates Depression and Anxiety
In a professional and safe environment, the human touch, believe it or not, can be very therapeutic. Through massage therapy, endorphines can be released in the body which helps you feel energised, happy and relaxed.
It Improves Blood Circulation
Regular massage therapy leads to improved circulation of blood in the body. Proper blood circulation supplies tensed, damaged and stiff muscles the oxygen-rich blood required for healing. The hands-on pressure of massage therapy also promotes circulation to congested areas of the body. The massage techniques used also removes lactic acid from muscle tissues and improves lymph fluid circulation. This procedure carries metabolic waste products away from the internal organs and muscles leading to an improved overall body function. A head massage can also help increase blood circulation in the scalp and nourish it, helping in boosting hair growth and even reducing greying of hair strands.
Lowers Blood Pressure
The combination of reduced stress levels, reduced level of depression and anxiety, and improved blood circulation leads to a reduction in blood pressure. Lower levels of blood pressure leads to a reduction in the risk of heart attacks and strokes as well as improving the overall heart health.
Helps Treat Migraines And Chronic Headaches
Emotional and physical stress is a common trigger of migraines. Massage reduces stress by decreasing anxiety and cortisol levels during sessions. Massages also treat headaches by reducing pain at the trigger points on the neck and shoulder. Massages reduce pain receptor stimulations at these trigger points. Massage therapy thereby reduces the severity and frequency of tension headaches.
Relieves Lower Back Pain
Massage blocks pain receptors in muscles tissues, relaxes the body and increases blood flow. This helps to decrease stiffness and pain in the lower back. Massage therapy is not only effective in treating lower back pain, it also comes with minimal side effects.
Helps Sufferers Of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia, also known as fibromyalgia syndrome(FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. It is a chronic condition with symptoms of intense fatigue, rigid joints and pain. While there is currently no cure for this chronic pain, studies have shown a strong connection between improved quality of life for fibromyalgia sufferers and regular massage therapy.
Helps Sufferers Of Arthritis
Arthritis is the chronic inflammation of joints that damages cartilage. It can affect one joint or multiple joints. Studies have shown massage therapy benefits sufferers of arthritis. The pressure from massage reduces joint tension by stimulating connective tissue and muscle receptors. Pain-killing hormones are also increased through massages.
Reduces Inflammation, Reduces Post-Surgery/Injury Swelling
Massage massively relieves sore muscles after a workout session. Often, our muscles get inflamed due to intense workouts. Massages can help reduce inflammation by increasing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to our muscles. This helps the body to recover more quickly. A professional massage is also a great way to safely deal with sports injuries and or post-surgery rehabilitation.
The primary cause of neck, back and muscle pain results from poor posture. Chronic back pain is often the result of incorrect or poor posture while standing and or sitting. Poor posture and repetitive unsafe movements can also contribute to the strain on the back and other potential problem areas. Improving your posture can be one of the most relaxing and beneficial aspects of massage therapy. Massage therapy helps to correct the unsafe movements and positions developed over time as a reaction to pain.
Helps To Strengthen The Body’s Immune System
It has been proven beyond doubt that individuals who experience high levels of stress are more vulnerable to injuries and illness. Stress combined with poor nutrition adversely affects the body’s immune system. The immune system is the body’s natural ability to protect itself from bacteria, infections and pathogens. Studies have shown that regular massages help to boost the immune system’s natural ‘killer cells’ and enhances the body’s ability to deliver nourishment. Regular massages have also been shown to improve the production of white blood cells which fight against disease. Just like how regular exercises help to keep the body in good shape, regular massage therapy can help to keep the body’s immune system strong, robust and resilient.
Massage therapy has a positive effect on delta waves, which are the brain waves associated with deep sleep. Not only do regular massages encourage deep restful sleep, it also helps those who can’t otherwise comfortably sleep. Massages also help infants sleep more, cry less and stay less stressed. Massage produces a calming and relaxing effect which induces longer periods of deep sleep.
Massage therapy will loosen and relax your muscles. This flexibility helps the body to easily achieve its full range of movement potential. Improved flexibility helps those who workout regularly to effectively prevent injuries.
Aids In The Development Of Infants
Massages play a vital role in the development of infants. Infant massages improves motor skills, relaxation, sleep and reduces crying by lowering stress hormones. Massages increase oxytocin, a hormone that plays a role in social bonding and behaviours.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder can massively benefit from massage therapy for many of the reasons listed above. Massage therapy relieves stress, relieves anxiety and depression, relaxes the body and reduces pain associated with traumatic memories or experiences. Massage therapy is indeed an ideal companion to psychotherapeutic techniques sought out by sufferers of PTSD.
Does Massage Therapy Pose Any Risk?
Risks associated with massage therapy appear to be relatively low. Side effects are very limited and minor. Common side effects include increased discomfort, headaches, bruising, soreness and nausea. There have, however, been reports of rare serious side effects such as nerve injuries, bone fractures and blood clots. Some of these reported rare serious side effects were attributed to some vigorous types of massages. Some people, especially the aged, might also be at an increased risk of getting some of these injuries.
What To Consider Before Giving Massage Therapy A Go…
The medical benefits of massage therapy are numerous, but we still need to be aware of our individual health and circumstances before giving it a go. In as much as the body benefits from massage therapy, there are some circumstances where massage therapy may not be recommended.
If you do find yourself with any of the conditions listed below, then please ensure you consult a qualified health professional before giving massage therapy a go:
- If suffering from a life threatening illness.
- If suffering from skin rashes.
- If you have wounds, cuts or infections.
- If you are suspected of having broken bones or fractures.
- During pregnancy.
- If prone to bleeding (people with high risk of blood clots should be cautious of deep tummy massages as this is sometimes associated with internal bleeding).
As Always…..STAY SAFE AND HYDRATED
Drinking water after massage sessions helps to rehydrate the soft tissues and muscles that have just been worked. Fluids are pushed from the tissues into the lymphatic system during manual manipulation of soft tissues. These fluids need to be replaced or you risk becoming dehydrated. Hydration helps the body to flush out the waste products released during massage sessions.