Exactly what is massage? It is practice of pressing, rubbing and manipulating the skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments with the hands, fingers, forearms, elbows and even feet. Sometimes hot stones are also used. The practice of massage is thousands of years old. If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how wonderful you feel afterwards. That’s not just because your muscles have been loosened up, it’s also because massage causes your brain to release endorphins, pleasurable chemicals into your central nervous system.
Massage can be a light touch or stroking, all the way to deep, forceful pressure. A Swedish massage, for example, uses a more gentle touch, while deep massage or trigger point massage uses slower, more forceful strokes to work the deeper layers of muscle that have been injured from sports or overuse.
Benefits of massage
Massage is a complementary or alternative medicine and doesn’t replace regular medical care, but more and more traditional healthcare practitioners suggest it as an adjunct to standard medical treatment. Studies have found massage is helpful for a variety of conditions, such as digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia, myofascial pain syndrome, paresthesias and nerve pain, soft tissue strains or injuries, sports injuries and temporomandibular joint pain. It can help reduce blood pressure, reduce postsurgery adhesions and swelling, alleviate backaches, enhance immunity, improve joint flexibility, promote tissue regeneration, reduce spasms and cramping and relieve migraines.
Massage has been shown to have a number of psychological benefits as well. Many experts estimate that about 90 percent of all disease is stress related, so when we reduce stress, we improve not only our psychological health, but also our physical health. Massage certainly helps to manage both. This works by decreasing anxiety and fatigue, improving sleep quality, increasing energy and circulation and enhancing concentration.
The enormous benefits of the human touch cause specific and profound physiological and chemical changes in the body that nothing else can duplicate. Arthritis sufferers have fewer aches and pains. Burn patients experience less pain and itching. Women with PMS get less water retention and cramping. Premature babies gain weight. Even animals benefit from massage!
Increase the benefits
While it may feel like you are pampering yourself when you get a massage, you are actually doing something good for your health. While getting a massage whenever you are stressed out or have pain from an injury is certainly a good idea, you’ll get the most benefit from massage by regularly scheduling massage as part of your health regimen.
The more often you can have a massage, the more benefit you will receive. Budget the time and money for massage just as you do for your gym membership and regular workouts to get the most from your bodywork. It’s an investment in your health that pays for itself many times over.