Massage and sleep

Massage therapy has been shown to induce relaxation and calm, and it can also lead to a better night’s sleep.

Massage therapy leads to a feeling of relaxation and calm, and clients often report a sense of clarity and perspective. Not only does massage therapy feel good physically, but it also seems to hit a mental ‘reset button,’ leading to clearer thoughts and enhanced sleep.  Massage therapy can also manage two common sleep stealers: stress and pain. Massage therapy tackles stress on the physical level by easing muscle tightness and on the biochemical level by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol–prompting the release of endorphins, which make us feel good.

Massage therapy has been shown to mediate pain, which is very good news for people living with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.  The pain-lessening benefits of regular massage therapy lead to better sleep. Better sleep will ultimately give your body time to restore and heal.

Swedish massage therapy is what comes to mind when most people think about massage. One of the primary goals of Swedish massage is to relax the entire body, which is accomplished by rubbing the muscles with long gliding strokes in the direction of blood returning to the heart. But Swedish massage is also exceptionally beneficial for increasing the level of oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle toxins and improving circulation and flexibility while easing tension.

A study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and published in The New York Times, found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as arginine vasopressin–a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. Volunteers also had increases in the number of lymphocytes–white blood cells that are part of the immune system, and a boost in the immune cells that may help fight colds and the flu.

Swedish massage techniques also include circular pressure applied by the hands and palms, firm kneading, percussion-like tapping, bending and stretching. Before and during a Swedish massage session, talking to the massage therapist will allow the massage to be customized.

A wide variety of massage services are available at Widdoss Therapeutic Massage, including Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, reflexology, trigger point therapy, sports massage, Deep Muscle Therapy, prenatal massage, and AromaTherapy.

Give us a call today at 205-394-5900 and schedule your appointment, then prepare to experience a better nights sleep!

Timing is Key to Massage Benefits for Neck Pain

Massage can relieve neck pain if it’s done often by a professional therapist and for the correct length of time, according to new research.

One-hour sessions two or three times a week appear to be best, said study researcher Karen Sherman, senior scientific investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle.

“In the short term, 60 minutes of massage is better than 30, and you want to do multiple treatments a week for the first four weeks,” she said.

Her study, which tested the effects of a month of massage, is published in the March/April issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Persistent neck pain is common and stems from numerous causes — car accidents, sleeping in awkward positions or spending hours hunched over a computer, among them, Sherman said.

Doctors often recommend anti-inflammatory medicines, but these drugs frequently don’t provide enough relief, she noted. “People with back and neck pain aren’t usually satisfied with what they get from their doctor, so they are looking around for something that works,” Sherman explained.

Previous studies of massage for neck pain have produced conflicting results, so Sherman’s team decided to look closer. Specifically, they wanted to determine what dose of massage is ideal. In a previous study, Sherman had found that benefits of massage were evident after four weeks.

For the new study, she randomly assigned 228 men and women, aged 20 to 64, to one of six groups. These included 30-minute massages two or three times weekly, one-hour massages one, two or three times weekly, and a comparison group receiving no massage.

Assessing neck functioning and pain levels a week after treatment ended, the researchers determined that patients getting one hour of massage three times a week showed the most gains after four weeks of massage.

Compared to those who got no massage, “people getting massage three times a week were almost five times as likely to have a clinically meaningful (meaning important or noticeable) improvement in function and over twice as likely to report a clinically meaningful decrease in pain,” Sherman said.

Many patients who get therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain may not reap benefits if they undergo shorter or less frequent sessions, the authors suggested.

Jeanette Ezzo, a massage therapist and researcher in Takoma Park, Md., called the study “an important contribution to understanding the massage dosage necessary to relieve neck pain.” Ezzo has published research on the effectiveness of complementary medicine practices, including massage.

Nationwide, the average cost for a one-hour massage by a professional massage therapist is $65, according to the American Massage Therapy Association. However, in large cities the fee can be much higher.

Insurance coverage varies, said Sherman. Whether massage therapy would work in elderly patients isn’t known as the average age of her patients was in the 40s.

Sherman cautioned against having a family member or friend attempt to massage away your neck pain. “We used extremely experienced massage therapists,” she said. Treatment sessions also assessed range of motion and looked at how the patient’s body compensated for the neck pain, which the average person is unable to do, she said.

Dr. Fredrick Wilson, a spine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, stressed the need to use a professional massage therapist. “If done incorrectly, [massage] can actually cause muscle tightening and spasm,” he said.

For neck or back pain, “it seems the training and experience make a difference in the amount of pain relief patients get,” he added.

However, Wilson said he is waiting for a study that shows longer-lasting effects before he recommends massage for patients complaining of neck pain. The authors agreed that studies with longer follow-up are warranted.

People with chronic neck pain might also ask their doctor about special neck exercises, Sherman said.

Neck pain accounts for more than 10 million medical visits a year in the United States, according to background information in the study. When patients were followed up one to five years later, at least half reported persistent or recurrent problems, previous studies found.

Back relief from massage not pain meds!

Massage can provide effective relief from low back pain!  A study published in the Annuals of Internal Medicine suggests massage might alleviate back pain better than traditional approached such as medication, exercise and bed rest.

The study involved 400 patients who had low back pain. The vast majority were middle aged Caucasian females. They discovered that those who were given a series of massage sessions were able to better return to their normal activities of daily living and work. What surprised the researchers was that the improvement was superior to conventional medical care, such as muscle relaxers, pain medication and physical therapy.

During our massage career we’ve helped clients that suffered with neck and back pain.  Several of our clients could be a poster child for what massage can do. They have been so impressed with what massage did for them, they told all of their friends and neighbors about the benefits for massage and what it did to give them their life back.

Another study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, came to the same conclusion after a 10 week project.  Over 33 percent of the patients given massage therapy indicated that their pain was much improved or even eliminated completely. This was in comparison to only one in 25 patients who were given conventional care. In addition, they were more likely to have spent less time in bed and used less pain medication.

One of the more encouraging elements of the study was that the beneficial effects of the massage seemed not only to be experienced during the research period, but also lingered for a time following the completion of the therapy. This was evidenced by the lingering effect of massage continued to display improvement in function for several months after the study’s onset.

Sometimes the benefit of massage only lasts 3 days, other times the relief lasts up to 10.

There will always be members of the medical community that will continue to be reluctant to accept the benefits as being valid. As younger physicians enter the medical field with training in the benefits of alternative medicine, this may change.

Why not try massage as an alternative to toxic medications?  Give us a call today at 205-394-5900 or visit our website at to find a healthier alternative to medication.