Massage Therapy Corner
By: Roberta Langley, LMT
The Benefits of Massage Therapy
There have been volumes written on the benefits of having a massage! But for the sake of your already overworked browser, here are a few great reasons to call your favorite MT (or find one!). Handy footnotes have been included just in case you want to research any of these topics further.
- Massage reduces the negative effects of stress and anxiety
Touch is an amazing, miraculous thing. And meaningful touch, applied in the form of a therapeutic massage can have a profound effect – not only on a person’s physical state, but also on their emotional well-being. Massage reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, slows the breathing rate, lowers the stress hormone cortisol, and increases production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine which reduce depression and stress.1 If that wasn’t already enough, Massage also increases the levels of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killer and mood-elevator.2
- Massage improves muscle recovery from workouts
Even though it is true that massage helps decrease muscle soreness from working out and actually improves general blood flow, 3 it is a common misconception that massage helps flush lactic acid or lactate from the muscles.4 If you want to read about this controversial topic, the internet is full of articles outlining the physiological intricacies of these bodily chemical lovelies. But the bottom line is that massage does not decrease the level of lactic acid in the muscles. Even though the debate continues about exactly how massage helps your muscles recover from strenuous workouts or overuse of muscles, it absolutely does! New research shows that a short 10-minute massage directly after a workout helps the muscles recover faster and the athlete to feel better overall.5 In another study, a 30-minute massage was administered 2-6 hours post-workout and athletes found that the muscle soreness normally experienced several days later was reduced significantly.6
- Massage decreases the effects of chronic pain
Whether you suffer from the effects of an old injury or a condition like Fibromyalgia, massage may be a useful tool in combating your chronic pain. At one time, massage was thought to only ease the emotional impact of chronic pain, as well it does. But massage is being utilized more and more by the Medical Community as an actual agent of change in helping their patients manage their chronic pain. Research done by the Touch Research Institute and the University of Miami School of Medicine found that massage not only decreased the level of pain in patients with lower back pain, but helped improve their sleep, decrease anxiety and depression, and improved their range of movement.7 Similar results were found in studies involving Fibromyalgia patients -massage decreased pain, depression and anxiety. The researchers concluded that massage should be one of the viable complementary and alternative treatments for Fibromyalgia.8
- Massage helps to integrate the mind/body connection
All our lives we have heard, “don’t be a baby!”, “if you feel bad, just work through it”, and the ever popular, “no pain, no gain”. And while those expressions work well in some cases, overall it creates a mental state in which we are told to ignore our bodies and/or our minds. Pain and illness whether physical or mental seem like things we should overcome; somehow they show a weakness in character, we are being selfish if we take care of ourselves. This is a huge reason why the average person is so unaware of what is going on with their bodies. And also why so many people use prescription drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol: they are trying to numb the pain. Their perception is they are doing what they must to keep on going down the road, or they have reached a point where they just don’t want to feel anything anymore. Massage provides a safe place where people can start listening to their bodies and begin to feel again.
Being a Massage Therapist, I have been privileged to witness some amazing transformations. I recall a woman who had had a terrible auto accident several years prior to our meeting. She had gone through many operations, physical therapy and had finally come to a point where she could participate in strenuous activity and run again. This was when she came in for her first massage. She was so surprised at the stiffness that was still there and she knew intuitively that the stiffness was from the accident – massage was allowing her to connect the dots of her past painful experiences and integrate them into the present healthful state of her body. Through the course of several weekly massages, the stiffness dissipated and full range of motion she thought was lost forever returned. She expressed a feeling of wholeness, fluidity, and a deep sense of closure and healing from her accident. Massage is not the only way to begin the journey of mind/body integration. You who are reading this article have very likely had an experience of this sort with Reiki, acupuncture and of course the practice of yoga.
In addition to the benefits outlined above, massage may be helpful to reduce muscle tension, relieve headaches, sleep better, and enhance athletic performance.9 not to mention, they make your body feel really good! So don’t think you are being extravagant or pampering yourself in getting a massage! With all the good things a massage can do for you, getting one is not at all self-indulgent – it’s a downright necessity!
- Field Tiffany. “Massage has Positive Effects on Biochemistry.” Massage Magazine, March 24, 2009. Maria Hernandez-Reif, Miguel Diego, Saul Schanberg, Cynthia Kuhn. Originally published in International Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 115, No. 10, October 2005, pp. 1397-1413.
- Ehrlich, Steven D. NMD. “Massage.” University of Maryland Medical Center, 11/06/2015.
- Ali, Mohamed Dr.; Norkeviciute, Edita; Robinson, Austin T. “Massage Therapy Improves Circulation, Eases Muscle Soreness.” UIC Today, April 15, 2014.
- Thompson, Diana. “The Lactic Acid Debate.” Massage Bodywork. March/April 2011.
- Radcliffe, Shawn. “Massage Improves Post-Workout Recovery.” Men’s Fitness.
- Frankenfield, Gay R.N. “The Rub with Massage: Does it Really Help Muscles Recover After Exercise?” WebMD, April 26, 2000.
- Field, Tiffany, et al. “Lower Back Pain is Reduced and Range of Motion Increased After Massage Therapy.” International Journal of Neuroscience. Vol. 106, 2001. Issue 3-4.
- Li, Yan-hui, et al. “Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” PLoS One, 2014; 9(2): e89304.
- AMTA Staff Writer. “25 Reasons to get a Massage.” American Massage Therapy Association. Marketing Resource for Members.