Massage is a manual therapy that manipulates the soft tissues and decreases muscle tension, pain, stress and depression.
However, when posing the question, “What is massage?” it is common to hear the following replies: “Massage is such a luxury.” “Ah, massage, it is so relaxing.” “Massage is something I treat myself to on special occasions.” While all of these statements capture the idea of massage as a way to relax and to treat ourselves, none come close to touching on the essence of massage and its therapeutic benefits to body, mind and spirit.
- Increases circulation;
- Enhances the immune system;
- Promotes nervous system functioning;
- Reduces blood pressure;
- Relieves pain and muscle tension;
- Improves mood, intellectual reasoning and job performance;
- Positive effect on conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, diabetes and migraine headaches.
Depending on the techniques used, massage can:
- Stimulate the nervous system to help reduce muscle atrophy;
- Increase muscle tone;
- Stimulate the functions of the skin or an organ deep inside the body;
- Sedate the nervous system to help ease muscle tension, spasticity, stress-related symptoms and headaches;
- Boost the functioning of the immune system and maintains health when done regularly;
- Stimulate sluggish circulation or slow down the circulation of someone who has just run a marathon when using friction massage techniques;
- Allow better range of motion and support the connective tissue and muscles in becoming strong and healthy when doing simple joint movements and joint stretching.
The healing benefits of massage are important in our high-tech world because of our basic human need to be nurtured through touch. Touching and being touched is instinctual. For example, an injured animal will tend its wounds by licking or rubbing, a mother will comfort her crying child by stroking its head and patting its back, and a person with a toothache will rub and press the painful area to relieve congestion and pain.
The power of touch
The simple act of placing the hands on the body can itself encourage a person to thrive. Many studies have illustrated that without physical touch babies (human or animal) will not thrive and may not even survive. Touch also has a positive effect on caregivers. For example, mothers who regularly have a great deal of physical closeness with their babies experience postpartum depression to a far lesser degree, and elderly caregivers feel a decrease in stress, anxiety and depression when they touch and are touched.
A landmark study conducted on rhesus monkeys by Harry Harlow in the 1950s noted that monkeys separated from their mothers soon after birth showed a greater need for tactile comfort than for eating. Since then, many studies have illustrated how touch and massage can assist infants, especially babies born prematurely, to survive, gain weight and thrive. It has also been shown that the caregivers who massaged the infants benefited as well.
Types of massage
Today there are a myriad of bodywork modalities including: Swedish massage; trigger point therapy; connective tissue release; myofascial release; shiatsu; reflexology.
Therapeutic massage is designed to treat a specific condition, a licensed or certified professional is trained to assist with soft tissue injuries and dysfunctions, as well as support general recovery.
To feel better, relieve any discomfort, decrease stress levels, feel more relaxed and have a body that functions more efficiently, schedule regular appointments with your favorite massage therapist. Massage is not just for the rich, nor is it a treat reserved just for a special occasion. With the growing research base and the recognition of the benefits of massage in the healthcare arena, massage is a “kneaded” component of your wellness regimen.