Now days, in addition to “rubbing,” massage therapy, often referred to as bodywork or somatic therapy, refers to the application of various techniques to the muscular structure and soft tissues of the body that include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, vibration, rocking, friction, kneading and compression using primarily the hands, although massage therapists do use other areas of the body, such as the forearms, elbows or feet. All of the techniques are used for the benefit of the musculoskeletal, circulatory-lymphatic, nervous, and other systems of the body. In fact, massage therapy positively influences the overall health and well-being of the client.
The benefits of massage
- relaxes the whole body
- loosens tight muscles
- relieves tired and aching muscles
- increases flexibility and range of motion
- diminishes chronic pain
- calms the nervous system
- lowers blood pressure
- lowers heart rate
- enhances skin tone
- assists in recovery from injuries and illness
- strengthens the immune system
- reduces tension headaches
- reduces mental stress
- improves concentration
- promotes restful sleep
- aids in mental relaxation
Who will benefit from massage?
Professional and recreational sports:
Massage plays a part in every form of sport or exercise. Unfortunately, many people believe aches and pains are an inevitable consequence to activity. But massage can actually reduce or eliminate what may appear to be exercise-induced pain. It can increase endurance, control fatigue and help people feel better when used as part of a regular health program. Massage can also speed muscle recovery rates as it eliminates irritation from waste. By helping reduce fatigue and aid recovery, massage enables more productive training, with longer, more effective workouts. The ultimate spin-offs are better performance with fewer injuries. Exercise changes the way our muscles work. Blood vessels become more intricate as the body demands more oxygen and nutrients and increases waste elimination. This takes time. While the muscles are getting into shape, they can struggle to get enough oxygen and nutrients, so waste collects.
Massage also helps recovery from soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains. Tissue growth and repair is accelerated by efficient circulation and appropriate stimulation. Everybody experiences some form of stress through work, family, the environment and society. Mental tensions, frustrations, and insecurity cause the most damage. Hormones released by stress actually shrink the vessels, inhibiting circulation. A stressed mind and body means the heart works harder. Breathing becomes rapid and shallow and digestion slows. Nearly every body process is degraded. Studies show stress can cause migraines, hypertension (high blood pressure), depression, some peptic ulcers, etc. In fact, researchers have estimated 80% of disease is stress related. Soothing and relaxing massage therapy can counteract the effects of stress.
Massage knows no age limits. It works wonders on young, old, and in between. It can be especially helpful to the elderly who are experiencing the physical effects of aging which can include: thinner and drier skin, reduced tissue elasticity, loss of mobility, slower nervous system response, decreased bone mass, sleeplessness, constipation, and a less efficient immune system. Massage helps keep the body and mind functioning optimally by promoting well-nourished and healthy skin, improving circulation of blood and lymph, improving immune system functioning, improving energy flow, enhancing general relaxation, reducing muscular tension and associated discomfort, reducing anxiety, improving sleep, increasing feelings of well-being, enhancing flexibility and strength, increasing range of motion in joints, reducing discomfort from arthritis.
How often should one get a massage?
For general health and relaxation massages are recommended 1-2 times per month for people under light to moderate stress. This would also include people who are sedentary or who exercise only occasionally. Receiving massage therapy once or twice per month can have excellent health benefits and help reduce the effects of stress.
Massage for stress management:
For people who have high-stress occupations or living conditions, or who travel frequently, a higher frequency of massage therapy – weekly or bi-weekly is recommended. In this case, massage therapy helps the individual in coping with their stress. Tension builds up from stressful situations can be more easily managed with weekly massage. Additionally, just knowing that you will be receiving massage therapy each week or every-other-week can be very comforting.
Massage for pain reduction and management:
Reduction of, and management of pain requires a different type of frequency, sometimes referred to as “diminishing frequency”. People in severe pain not requiring medical intervention can and do receive massage therapy 1-2 times per week in the first week. Although rare, this may continue in the second and third week of treatment depending upon response of the client to the massage therapy. When the pain is reduced so is the frequency of massage therapy. At first it may be reduced to once per week, then every other week or less often.
Massage for athletes:
For Athletes the frequency of massage therapy depends on the sport, training schedules, and athletic goals. It is however recommended to have an massage once every 2 weeks or once a week.