19% of American adults confirm that they have used massage services at least once between June 2016 and July 2017.( American Massage Therapy Association AMTA report) Of this number, 72% used it to manage health related problems, from pain to stress related issues to headaches as well as for general well being. There is a current push for massage to become part of an integrative approach to health care.In a recent meeting on the Opioid crisis,it was noted that the use of massage to manage pain could well reduce the abuse of pain medications and also save Americans about 25 billion dollars annually-AMTA Research. This is because massage is a low cost method of managing pain and does not have the risk of overdose. Are these numbers beginning to swirl around your head? Don't worry, I have an infographic that simplifies all the numbers for you. But before I get to the infographic, here are 12 benefits of massage therapy.
12 Benefits of Massage Therapy
1 Reduce Stress
Courtesy Pixabay When our body is stressed, it responds by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to prepare the body to take action. This is what comes into effect in moments of emergency which causes us to fight or flee. While short term stress can be a good thing because it enables us save ourselves from dangerous situations,prolonged stress can also be bad for the body. Because it can trigger various types of diseases such as Insomnia, Fatigue, High blood pressure, Cardiovascular diseases etc. Massage has been noted to be an effective alliaviation method for highly stressed persons. According to the American Massage Therapy Association- AMTA, there is a evidence to prove that stress can be reduced through massage. During a trigger point experiment which sought to measure the various stress indicators before and after a massage. It was discovered that persons who had gone through massage had lower heart beats, lower blood pressure, a general feeling of wellness more than those who did not go through massage. So, next time you want to destress, consider taking a massage instead of plumping down in front of the TV.
2 Improve Blood Circulation
When I had a major surgery, keeping circulation at my lower parts was key, so I was fitted with an airbag massager. People who go through major surgeries often need massage as part of their post operative procedure to aid blood circulation and hasten recovery. Massage aimed at improving blood circulation is called circulatory massage. It works through the application of pressure during massage to squeeze blood to congested areas. Areas where there is a buildup of lactic acids experience a flush as the lymphatic systems are energized to carry waste from the muscles and internal organs. When blood circulation is enhanced, blood pressure reduces and the person feels better. Some benefits of circulatory massage include, relief of muscle tensions, removal of muscles soreness and enhancement of waste removal from the body.
3 Relieves Headaches
Next time you are having a headache, instead of popping a pill into your mouth, try getting a massage instead. Headaches are sometimes caused by the buildup of stress in our body systems, lack of sleep and working for long periods of time without breaks can induce headaches. Studies conducted by National Center for Biotechnology Information NCBI show that massage helped a lot in reducing chronic tension headaches in participants. See chart below
Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information From the chart we can see a significant decrease in the number of headaches experienced by the participants during the two weeks of study. Massage works on headaches by relieving tensed muscles that lead up to the brain. Muscles that are tied in knots and constricting blood flow to the head can be relieved by massage hence allowing blood to flow. Even though massage can be used to manage different types of headaches there is no substantial evidence that it treats it completely.
4 Eliminate Toxins
As a result of increased blood flow that happens during a massage,the push and pull of the various parts of your body will force blood through constricted regions which then carries waste out of the body. Massage helps to give you an overall health and wellbeing as it removes waste and rejuvenates the body.
5 Increases Range of Motion
Courtesy Pixabay When muscles are tired, they can constrict and reduce their range of motion,such that when one wants to move that part of the body, pain results. The tightness experienced by such muscles is released by massage and the body part is able to move again. The type of massage that easily helps with increase in range of motion is deep tissue massage. Because deep tissue massage is hard, it goes into the muscles and tendons to relieve tightness and sores ness and frees up the muscles. Deep tissue massage improves flexibility. Older people often suffer from stiffness and pain due to osteoarthritis, massaging them will help tremendously. Some of the benefits of increased range of motion is improved lubrication at the joints, free muscles that prevent injury during normal life activity and enhancement of athletic performance.
6 Improves Sleep
Courtesy Pixabay Sleeping is an essential part of our daily life which enables us function properly. Center for Disease and Control states that a third of the American population report not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to a lot of issues such as fatigue, irritability, lack of focus, diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease. It's not surprising because according to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation reduces your body’s immunity. This is because cytokines a chemical which helps our bodies to fight diseases is only released when you sleep. When I had my first baby, I did not know that sleep deprivation came with the terrain, especially in the first 3 months of a baby’s life. Having to deal with a whiny baby who suffered colic and cried at night made it difficult to concentrate during the day. It was my mum who advised me to sleep when the baby sleeps, I was like do you know the tonnes of chores I need to do when the baby is asleep? I soon learned the wisdom of someone who had gone through that route before. The fact is, if you are sleep deprived you will not be able to do all the house chores anyway. I decided to heed her advice and it paid off. Massage can be a great way to relieve the tensions and symptoms that sleep deprivation brings, especially for those that suffer from insomnia. Via massage we can apply acupressure to pain points which helps to relieve tensions that inhibit sleep. Swedish massage can help to relax your nerves and gently lead you to a more satisfactory sleep time.
7 Enhance Immunity
Immunity is defined as your body’s ability to fight diseases using your white blood cells. As I mentioned above, when sleep deprived, our immunity is compromised. A great way to boost that immunity is to do a massage. According to Livescience.com, in a study carried out by Cedar Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, some group of people who were massaged were found to have released an increased number of white blood cells after the massage as opposed to those who did not go through a massage. The study proved that there is a heightened level of immune response when one undergoes a massage. Massage technique used was Swedish massage, a technique that enhances relaxation.
8 Relieves Fatigue
Fatigue can be defined as a lack of energy or motivation for activity. It is often described with words such as tired, exhausted, weak etc. Fatigue is a symptom of underlying illness or simply a response of the body to intense activity that makes the body weak. When one is fatigued, it could mean that there is poor blood flow to some parts of the body, which means that oxygen is not carried to the tissues and cells in the needed areas. Using massage to relieve such constrictions can help. According to a study done by NCBI, massage therapy helped to relieve people who had pain, fatigue and sparsity while suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.
9 Alleviates Depression and Anxiety
When one is suffering from anxiety and depression, one of the hormones that is often low is serotonin, the happy hormone. According to National institute of Mental health, about 31.1% of Americans suffer from any form of anxiety at some time in their lives. Massage has been proven to have immediate effect in reducing anxiety and managing depression in adults. This is because a 60 minute massage can reduce cortisol levels, a hormone produced by the body to respond to stress. When cortisol levels are low, serotonin the happy hormones rises leading to calmness, and happiness. A research conducted by (National center for Biotechnology Information NCBI) showed that there were clinically reduced levels of generalized anxiety disorders after having a massage. They however stated that it was not necessarily superior to the other treatments given to the control group.
10 Reduce Swelling
Swelling occurs when there is an excess buildup of fluids around the hands, arms, and ankles. This could be caused by a blockage of the lymphatic system that stops the fluid from flowing away from these regions. Swelling can occur due to accidents or illness or even during pregnancy. I experienced swelling during pregnancy, sometimes my ankles were so swollen that my toes looked like fat stubs. One of the ways I used to relieve my swollen feet then was through massage and staying off my feet. Putting my feet above my head also helped as it used the force of gravity to help redistribute excess fluid. But the one technique that always worked was feet massage, using kneading techniques always worked for my swollen feet. Via this type of massage called lymphatic drainage, one can force the fluids to begin to flow back into the veins in the body hence relieving you.
11 Soothes Pain
Massage is a popular option for managing different types of physical pains in the body, especially for alleviating lower back pain, neck pain and arthritis pain. Pain is often the body’s signal to you that something is wrong with your system and you need to do something about it. That’s why pain is an indicator of illnesses and is the first sign that prompts you to go see a doctor. For people who suffer lower back pain, the American Massage Therapy Association various studies suggests that massage helps to alleviate lower back pain. Research shows that massage helps to decrease pain and disability associated with lower back pain over time. It even helps to reduce depression and anxiety caused by pain.
12 Counteracts Sitting
Courtesy Pixabay Sitting for long periods of time has adverse effects on our health, from stiffness in our muscles due to lack of movement to pain in the back, neck and shoulder regions due to the pressure put on those parts of the bodies as we work. Having a massage that attacks such areas of our bodies can be a great way to reduce the buildup of stress. Forbes magazine, suggests that massage is a way of increasing productivity at work. They imply that massage breaks will help to relieve the stress caused by the immobility of sitting for a long time. Some people have tried to counter the effect of seating by providing furniture that allows you to stand while you work. I am not sure that will work for people who suffer from back pain or tired feet but it remains to be seen.
Getting a massage is not what you do for luxury, it is a now a major requirement for managing health and ensuring your general wellbeing. Massage therapy will help you to alleviate major stresses that your body goes through, prevent your from developing stress related illnesses and also make you feel better where you already suffer from such.