We should all know the benefits of eating healthy, the effects of exercise on the body and the downright necessity of sleep, but what about massage? Most people know that a massage is relaxing and de-stressing. So we have those benefits ticked off by general knowledge, but there is so much more to a good massage than “It’s relaxing.”
Let’s start with the physical benefits
The majority of us have some kind of postural stress, quite commonly from long hours of sitting at our various jobs. Desk jobs, drivers, pilots, nail technicians, school students, you name it! If you are required to sit for prolonged periods of time on a regular basis, you’re body is undergoing stress. To further understand why sitting is reeking havoc on your body, here is an excellent in-depth explanation by Dr. Phil Maffetone.
In a nut-shell, massage counteracts the muscular imbalance that sitting causes by toning the weaker muscles and relaxing the overly-tight muscles. As the greek physician and father of medicine Hippocrates wrote; “rubbing can bind a joint which is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.” So, all you paper pushers, you need us massage therapists to knead you more than you realise. Not to mention you’ll feel renewed and refreshed overall. It’s almost like a quick reset for the body, with a lot of the benefits and effects similar to that of a good nights’ sleep.
That’s another thing that massage can improve: your sleep
Unsurprisingly, when we have stress and worries in our lives, it can be hard drifting off to cloudy dreamland when we hit the pillow at the end of the day. Insomnia is a serious issue for a lot of people, and can often be the result of physical or emotional pain. Massage encourages restful sleep by relieving this pain and allowing the body to experience a relaxed state. This can kickstart a long-term ability to enter into a relaxed state more frequently, relieving the body and mind from what can add up to years of stored tension. People who suffer with sleep apnea have also said to have reduced symptoms after receiving massage. Additionally, massage promotes the release of the hormone serotonin, which regulates mood, hunger and sleep. When this hormone is out of whack, all of our bodily functions are disrupted. Regulating this hormone can dramatically reduce insomnia. Beats all those sleeping pills!
Fend off illness
Like sleep, massage boosts your immune system. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found improved immune function in patients and a boost in their white blood cell count. Good blood circulation is vital for infection prevention in tissues and healthy, glowing skin. Manual tissue manipulaltion instantly promotes blood flow to and from the area, delivering key nutrients and removing all the bad stuff. On the same note, tensions in muscles can restrict blood flow through the area, and so as the muscle relaxes, normal blood flow can be restored. That’s a relieving feeling!
Psychologically, it makes sense
It is human nature to touch other humans. One of the most natural things to experience right from the get-go is physical touch. You are born, your mother holds you and caresses you. That’s day 1, in most cases. This is how nature intended it. Touch stimulates the bodies natural production of the hormone oxytocin, widely known as the love hormone or cuddle hormone. However, in cases of abuse, the relation with the hormone oxytocin can actually produce a sensation of anxiety. If people with these issues receive a professional massage in a safe environment, their association with touch can be changed. Slowly but surely trust can be restored in the human race, and this affects their hormone production. The effect of oxytocin on their psyche can alter, restoring positive feelings, soothing anxiety and reducing depression. Amazingly this can all happen subconsciously. Dopamine is another hormone whose concentration is elevated by massage. This is the feel good hormone, a neurotransmitter that makes up the reward system in the brain. Careful, this one’s highly addictive. 😉
It is unhealthy for us not to be touched. Sadly, a lot of people are lonely and do not get to experience something we instinctively crave and arguably need. For people who rarely get touched, receiving a massage can be enormously beneficial for them physically, spiritually and mentally. That’s what we like to call a holistic massage; treating the whole person.
Seriously, go get one
Just incase this information didn’t push you to book an appointment, here’s some more benefits and reasons you need massage in your self-care routine. (drum roll please…)
- Relieves tension headaches.
- Reduces the need to take pain-killers resulting in healthier liver and organs.
- Normalises blood pressure.
- Improves skin tone. (Maybe it’s Maybelline, maybe it’s that massage you got earlier.)
- Increases red blood cell count.
- Improves muscle tone.
- Speeds recovery from injury.
- Boosts metabolism.
- Relieves cramped muscles.
- Decreases muscle deterioration.
- Increases range of motion (Hello flexibility!)
- Speeds elimination of metabolic waste (Lactic acid hurts, ya’ll!)
- Increases blood and lymph circulation (Which reduces swelling, speeds illness recovery and aids the immune response.)
- Improves posture.
- Reduces chronic pain.
- Reduces mental stress.
- Reduces fatigue.
- Gives you an excuse to get away from the kids, or your annoying spouse, or your demanding cat.
- Improves concentration.
- Improves productivity.
- Enhances your self-esteem (Kanye West doesn’t need more of this.)
- Nurtures and stimulates emotional growth.
Guys, really. Must I go on? I shan’t, but it’s also good to know when not to have a massage. Here are the contraindications.
Don’t receive if:
- You have a fever.
- You have a contagious diseases, including any cold or flu.
- You are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- You have had a recent operations or acute injury.
- You have neuritis.
Avoid massage on areas that are:
- Cut or bruised.
- Undiagnosed lumps, bumps or pain.
- Varicose veins.
In any case of concern, consult with your doctor first, and always disclose this kind of information to your massage therapist before a treatment. For your safety and theirs.
At the School of Natural Health Sciences we have been training massage therapists for over 18 years. If you fancy a career change or would just like to qualify as a Holistic Massage Therapist in order to help your family and friends, check out our course profile here. We have over 50 holistic courses to discover and our diploma’s are recognised all over the world – view our A-Z list of Holistic Therapy Courses.