By Jean Olsen, BA, LMT, CNMT, HEFT
Do you really know all that massage can do for you? Honestly, after over 20 years of being a massage therapist, I am still learning about the benefits of massage. Let me share with you what I have learned, so you don’t have to waste years of not knowing, like I did. Of course, this list is not entirely complete because new benefits are being discovered all the time and because this is what I know only up until now!
First of all, we all know massage makes you feel wonderful. For some people, that may mean relief from pain by relaxing muscle spasms and tension. For others it may mean a more emotional and/or spiritual type of wonderful feeling. Still, others may just love the way it relaxes them as it transports them to a place of heightened awareness. Some types of massage may also bring on an energizing effect which some people like.
Years ago, I read an interesting article about people in nursing homes who were very inactive. They were given massages, which were found to compensate for the lack of exercise. The massages helped by returning venous blood to the heart and increasing blood flow to the muscles and organs. The muscles that had begun to atrophy were improved because of this increase in circulation and nutrition to the tissues. Can you imagine that? It was as if the body almost did not know the difference between physical activity and massage, since they both supplied the same sort of benefits.
There is one difference though, in these two forms of activity. When you get massage it doesn’t increase toxic lactic acid in the body produced with voluntary muscle contraction, as strenuous exercise or injury does. This means there is less buildup of harmful products that create fatigue in the body with massage.
There are many other reasons to consider the therapeutic benefits of massage. It can help the muscles to be prepared for exercise and also helps them to recover after strenuous exercise. Massage assists in bone and tissue repair by retaining the nutrients needed for healing. It improves the circulation and nutrition of joints and speeds up the elimination of harmful deposits. Massage also stretches connective tissue which prevents or breaks down adhesions. Another benefit is that it lessens the swelling of joints which helps to decrease pain.
When you get a massage, your blood vessels get dilated which improves circulation. Increased circulation relieves congestion throughout the body. This circulation increase raises the number of red blood cells, which can be especially helpful when one has anemia. Another benefit of increased circulation is that, it stimulates lymph areas and helps the body to eliminate waste and toxins.
When massage increases the excretion of fluids and other waste products, it helps to reduce edema in the hands, arms, legs and feet. It also helps to disperse edema from the ligaments and tendons that may follow injury. Most of this release of fluids is done via the kidneys which is one reason why you should not get a massage if you have kidney disease. Please check with your doctor if you have edema, prior to getting a massage, and make sure it will be good for you.
One more interesting benefit to getting a massage is in the area of mental health. It is not just in your head that massage feels good. Actually, there is a scientific basis to those good feelings. One reason for this is that, when you get a massage, increased endorphins are secreted by the brain. Endorphins are chemicals that have a powerful elevating affect on your mood. Massage also increases serotonin levels, which aids in the relief of depression. Probably because of the nurturing aspect of massage, it is also known to help one to feel more confident.
Do you understand a little more about the vast benefits of getting a massage after reading this? I hope so. So, what are you waiting for? Go set up your appointment for a massage today!