Not so long ago, massage was seen by most people as a “luxury” that was only available at resorts and higher-end health clubs enjoyed by people feeling the need to pamper themselves. However, massage has now become accepted as an essential health protocol used effectively to treat a variety of conditions. It is widely regarded as one of the best ways to relieve stress. While people most often focus on the physical aspects, studies show massage therapy also provides a number of mental health benefits.
Massage is a generalized term for various forms of mechanical manipulation of the soft, hard, and connective tissues, including the joints. This manipulation may involve applying static pressure to release muscle adhesions, performing light or deep kneading of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints, as well as stimulating the dermis and epidermis.
Benefits of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is often used as part of a multifaceted integrative treatment approach to address a wide range of medical conditions. However, there are a number of maladies, such as tension headaches, sore muscles, and minor emotional issues resulting from daily stress that massage therapy may be able to address on its own. Following is a comprehensive list of the physical and mental health benefits and the conditions massage may help with:
- Aids in increasing flexibility and range of motion.
- Alleviate tension headaches and decrease migraine headache frequency.
- Provides a boost to your immune system response.
- Boosts sexual desire and improves intimacy.
- Improve carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
- Cuts down on chemotherapy-related nausea.
- Decreases pain from rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
- Enhances athletic performance and shortens recovery time between workouts.
- Enhances the quality of end-of-life care.
- Fibromyalgia pain.
- Help with dementia-related confusion.
- Improves cardiovascular function and addresses circulatory issues.
- Improves mood and reduces stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
- Increases energy levels.
- Joint inflammation.
- Lower-back pain.
- Postoperative pain reduction.
- Promotes relaxation and an overall feeling of wellness.
- Provides muscle tension relief and reduces soreness.
- Reduces chronic back and neck pain.
- Relieves stomach and digestive tract issues.
- Restores lost balance.
- Restores mobility.
- Sleep issues such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
Following is a detailed explanation of the major benefits of massage therapy broken down into seven main categories:
1) Pain Relief
Massage has been shown to reduce pain from a variety of causes. All body pain is the result of undue pressure being placed on nerve fibers, and massage therapy, through the manipulation of those fibers, provides muscle tension relief. As an example, as reported by the Mayo Clinic, a 2015 study from “Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine” showed that swelling from arthritic inflammation and the resulting pain was significantly reduced by regular massage therapy sessions. This is believed to be due, at least in part, to the effect massage has on increasing blood flow to the affected area.
Both fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome are caused by an inflammation of the muscle tissue that results in chronic pain from pressure on nerve fibers. The pain from fibromyalgia specifically can result in loss of sleep and affect memory and mood. While there are no cures for either condition, the pain can be managed. Be sure to discuss your condition with your healthcare provider and massage therapist to be sure massage therapy is the right treatment option for you.
A tension headache is another common malady that massage therapy can be used to address. Sometimes referred to as a “concentration headache,” a tension headache is believed to be typically caused by stress and feels like having a tight band wrapped around your head. Massage can provide relief by reducing muscle tension in the head, neck, and upper torso.
2) Reduces Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Massage is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress. Stress is an ever-present facet of life, and while it can’t be avoided, there are steps you can take to reduce the effect stress can have on both your mental and physical health. If left untreated, long-term stress can lead to anxiety and depression, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and weight management issues. Whenever the body perceives a threat, as it does when facing a stressful situation, it produces several stress hormones, the two main ones being cortisol and norepinephrine, to prepare the body to react to the threat. However, if these hormones are not burned off and build up in the body, they can result in a wide array of health issues ranging from mild anxiety to a significant cardiac event.
3) Promotes Relaxation
Going hand-in-hand with pain and stress reduction, being able to relax at the end of the day is critical to long-term health. In addition to helping the body get rid of the stress hormones, massage also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing opiates, namely serotonin and dopamine. Both of these substances produce a mild euphoria and an overall feeling of well-being.
4) Increased Circulatory and Immune Function
Massage helps to increase blood flow by opening up blood veins and vessels that have become compressed from inflammatory responses in the soft tissues. The increased blood flow promotes healing by increasing the amount of oxygen, nutrients, and antibodies reaching the tissues. Due to the increased circulation massage provides for, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports massage during pregnancy help to increase blood flow to the fetus as well as the mother to help with gestational difficulties and may help to reduce complications during delivery.
5) Improved Sleep
Sleep is one of the first things typically affected by stress. Massage helps to improve your sleep by both reducing the effects of stress itself and producing a more relaxed state.
6) Digestive-Tract Issues
A study in the Gastroenterology Nursing journal found significant evidence of abdominal massages helping with post-surgery constipation. Similar studies have found stomach massages help to alleviate stomach aches and cramps by allowing intestinal gas to pass more freely through the digestive tract. Stomach massage is also beneficial in promoting the healing of stomach tissues after injury, illness, and surgery.
7) Improved Intimacy
Physical touch provides more than a good feeling, and multiple studies support it as one of the best ways to relieve stress. Studies have found the therapeutic effects of human contact increase endorphin levels that provide beneficial effects on mood as well as lowering blood pressure and reducing the amounts of stress hormones. This is true even for couples giving each other non-medical massages for both the partner giving and the partner receiving the massage.
While there is a substantial amount of research to support the benefits of massage therapy for a wide array of conditions, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a medical professional if you have any serious concerns. However, if you are experiencing minor muscle soreness or stress, booking a massage may be all that is needed. Be Still Float wellness studio provides massage stress therapy in Jacksonville, Florida. If you live in or are visiting the Jacksonville area, visit their website at BeStillFloat.com or call them at 904-593-2458 to schedule an appointment. Be Still Float also provides other forms of stress therapy in Jacksonville, such as sound healing and float tank therapy.