Why Get A Massage?

Why Get A Massage For Health & Fitness:

For the whole body to be healthy, — the cells — must be healthy. The individual cells of the body are dependent on an abundant supply of blood and lymph because these fluids supply nutrients and oxygen and carry away wastes and toxins. Good circulation is so important to our health and this is why massage can be so beneficial for the entire body due to its effect on circulation alone.

The relationship of stress and illness is of interest to anyone maintaining their health. We all have stress in our daily lives relating to work, family, environment, society. Mental tensions, frustrations, and insecurity are among the most damaging. Stress causes the release of hormones that create vasoconstriction — vessel shrinking — and reduced circulation. Affected by stress, the heart works harder, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, and digestion slows. Nearly every body process is degraded. Psychosomatic studies show how stress factors can cause migraines, hypertension, depression, some peptic ulcers, etc. Researchers have estimated that 80% of disease is stress related. Soothing and relaxing massage therapy can help by counteracting stress effects.

Massage has a definite psychological effect. Since massage animates the tactile sense, the body’s primary sense, it brings people into the here and now and away from tension generated by constant preoccupation with problems. Also, loosening of muscle tension or “armoring” — the physical counterpart to how we defend and protect ourselves from psychological pain — can lead to freeing of repressed emotions.

Massage is also been documented by many to:

Cause changes in the blood. The oxygen capacity of the blood can increase 10-15% after massage. Affect muscles throughout the body. Massage can help loosen contracted, shortened muscles and can stimulate weak, flaccid muscles. This muscle “balancing” can help posture and promote more efficient movement. Massage does not directly increase muscle strength, but it can speed recovery from the fatigue that occurs after exercise. In this way, it can be possible to do more exercise and training, which in the long run strengthens muscles and improves conditioning. Massage also provides a gentle stretching action to both the muscles and connective tissues that surround and support the muscles and many other parts of the body, which helps keep these tissues elastic.

Increase the body’s secretions and excretions. There is an increase in the production of gastric juices, saliva, and urine. There is also increased excretion of nitrogen, inorganic phosphorus, and sodium chloride (salt). This suggests that the metabolic rate (the utilization of absorbed material by the body’s cells) increases.

Affect the nervous system. Massage balances the nervous system by soothing or stimulating it, depending on which effect is needed by the individual at the time of the massage.

Enhance skin condition. Massage directly improves the function of the sebaceous (oil) and sweat glands which keep the skin lubricated, clean, cooled. Tough, inflexible skin can become softer and more supple.

Affect internal organs. By indirectly or directly stimulating nerves that supply internal organs, blood vessels of these organs dilate and allow greater blood supply to them.

Users of massage therapy as a healing tool quickly realize that they have found a form of drugless therapy. Headaches, insomnia, digestive disorders including constipation and spastic colon, arthritis, asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, sinusitis, and minor aches and pains are some of the problems that can respond to massage therapy. Massage can have an excellent effect on nervous people who have been dependent on their pharmacy for rest and relaxation.

Massage also aids recovery from soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains. This is possible because the growth and repair of tissue are accelerated by efficient circulation in the injured areas and appropriate stimulation of the healing tissues. Many soft tissue injuries are not serious enough to cause one to visit a doctor or hospital for treatment, or are only treated with some first-aid, but still cause some discomfort and disability. Massage therapy can often help speed and improve recovery and reduce discomfort from such mishaps. In this way, massage helps bridge the gap between common neglect of injury and major medical intervention.

What takes place under a massage therapist’s hands has profound importance for those interested in health and fitness — in “tuning up” their bodies. In every sport or form of exercise, massage can help to reduce physiological fatigue and aid recovery from the exertion of working out or playing. Massage enables training better, with longer, more effective workouts, thus facilitating better performance and preventing injury.

The people of ancient Mediterranean civilizations knew this. After bathing and exercise, they included a full body massage. The ancients understood that education involves equal development of mind and body. The modern public’s interest in physical fitness, holistic health, wellness and human potential represents the elevated awareness of our age for natural approaches to health.

For most people embarking on a fitness program, often the spirit is willing but the flesh is not. When regular exercise is begun almost every part of the body changes. Of interest to massage therapists is the way blood vessels become more intricate in order to meet the body’s demand for more oxygen, to supply more nutrients, to permit more elimination. This takes time. While the muscles are getting into shape, they have trouble getting enough oxygen and nutrients, and wastes back up and stagnate. Unfortunately, many exercise programs regard aches and pains as the inevitable price to be paid. This is simply not true because massage can be used as the Greeks and Romans used it — to increase endurance, control fatigue, and feel better as part of a regular health program.

Massage acts to disperse the accumulated by-products of muscle action that irritate muscles and nerve endings. Lactic and carbonic acids build up in muscle tissue shortly after exercise begins. These acids are waste products that contribute to causation of the pain and occasional cramping that exercisers, athletes, dancers, etc. suffer during and/or after workouts or performing. These acids are formed when the glycogen stored in the liver and muscles is burned to produce the energy expended during exercise. The acids must eventually be reconverted to glycogen and stored again, or drained out via the lymph and circulatory systems. Pain and fatigue persists until this process of reconverting or excreting is completed. Massage can help eliminate the irritation caused by these wastes, thus increasing muscle recovery rates. When massage has been substituted for rest, an increase from 20-75%, even 100% muscle recovery has been recorded. For example, this is why boxers are massaged rather than rested between rounds.

Joints are critical to exercise because joints are moved by the muscles to produce movement. All joints are complicated, and their parts have a way of settling and stiffening when not used. A sluggish, numbed feeling in the joints discourages exercise. A massage therapist counteracts this by using massage strokes and passive movement to release the muscle tension and free the connective tissue found around the joints that can bind the joints.

Increased health awareness has also increased nutrition awareness. The most carefully planned diet is partly wasted if blood vessels are not developed and open so that nutrition can reach the cells. Massage can aid internal nutrition rates by improving circulation.

The theories of therapeutic massage are scientific in character, but the actual application of these theories is an art, for it involves the healing sense, sensitivity of touch, insight, and intuition. It is a unique way of communicating without words, sharing energy, enjoying pleasurable relaxation, and experiencing peace of mind. Massage is often attributed to have ethereal spiritual effects akin to those of meditation.

The past ten years or so have seen a proliferation of different terms, titles, and systems of massage such as: Therapeutic, Holistic, Swedish, Sports, Neuromuscular, Bodywork, Oriental, Shiatsu, Acupressure, Esalen, Reichian, Polarity, Reflexology, etc. For the sake of clarity, the term massage or massage therapy as used in this article refers to the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues. The thing to keep in mind is that every healing art that employs massage therapy should include some form of kneading, pressing, or stroking with the use of pressure and movement, no matter how slight the touch or how often it is used.

Whenever interviewing a massage therapist you should always feel comfortable asking if they have graduated from a school that is accredited. They should display their license if licensing is required in your area (as of 7/11/97, 25 states and D.C. regulate massage therapists), are nationally certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (this is the only professional certification program that has been recognized by an independent, outside agency), belong to a credible professional association with a background knowledge of the types and styles of massage used.

At the University of Miami School of Medicine’s Touch Research Institute, 55 studies on touch, the majority on massage therapy have been published or are under way.  And, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ‹ the government agency that oversees and conducts medical research in the United States, opened an Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992, which has funded several studies on the benefits of massage.  More research is under way.

Among research findings so far:

* Office workers massaged regularly were more alert, performed better and were less stressed than those who weren’t massaged.

* Massage therapy decreased the effects of anxiety, tension, depression, pain, and itching in burn patients.

* Abdominal surgery patients recovered more quickly after massage.

* Premature infants who were massaged gained more weight and fared better than those who weren’t.

* Autistic children showed less erratic behavior after massage therapy.

Whether seeking relief for a medical condition, searching for a method to help deal with the stresses of daily life or wanting to maintain good health, more and more Americans are turning to therapeutic massage.

Massage doesn’t just feel good, research shows it reduces the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, and increases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.  Therapeutic massage enhances medical treatment and helps people feel less anxious and stressed, relaxed yet more alert.

A national survey conducted by the State University of New York at Syracuse found 54 percent of primary care physicians and family practitioners said they would encourage their patients to pursue massage therapy as a treatment, and a third of those said they are willing to refer patients to a massage therapist.

A study in 1994 at the Middlesex Hospital, London, of 100 patients recovering from cardiac surgery, revealed that a 20 minute foot massage lowered anxiety rates, decreased pain, and reduced tension. Massage is a great way to improve the physical and emotional well-being of cancer patients. Reducing pain, nausea and tension, less anxious, more relaxed, and were more mobile after receiving massages. I believe that massage should be part of every health care program, irrespective of the disease in order to help improve the quality of life.

Benefits of Therapeutic Massage:

Physical Benefits of Massage:
A tremendous help in overcoming depression
Helps relieve stress and aids relaxation
Helps relieve muscle tension and stiffness
Helps to improve posture
Helps to reduce muscle spasms
Helps to reduce blood pressure
Enhances athletic performance
Helps to reduce pain and swelling
Promotes deeper and easier breathing
Helps strengthens the immune system
Enhances the health and nourishment of skin
Enhances capacity for calm thinking and creativity
Provides greater joint flexibility and range of motion
Improves circulation of blood and movement of lymph fluids
Fosters faster healing of strained muscles and sprained ligaments
Helps relieve tension-related headaches and effects of eye-strain

Emotional Benefits of Therapeutic Massage:
Fosters peace of mind
Reduces levels of anxiety
Helps relieve mental stress
Fosters a feeling of well-being
Satisfies needs for caring nurturing touch
Improves ability to monitor stress signals
Promotes a relaxed state of mental alertness
Increases awareness of mind-body connection
Helps to reduce formation of excessive scar tissue

There also is a growing trend of offering therapeutic massage in the workplace.  Your employer may be among those who have learned that massage therapy isn’t just a perk, but actually increases employee productivity and morale.

According to a 1996 survey of employees who regularly receive therapeutic massage  on-site at Reebok International Ltd., 98 percent said it helped them reduce work-related stress; 92 percent said it increased alertness, motivation and productivity; 83 percent said it had in some cases sufficiently addressed a problem so medical attention was not necessary; and 66 percent said it had enabled them to stay at work when they would have otherwise gone home sick.

Health insurance companies and HMOs, realizing the cost savings of therapeutic massage, are increasingly covering or reimbursing massage when it is prescribed or provided by authorized professionals.

Therapeutic massage involves the manipulation of the soft tissue structures of the body to prevent and alleviate pain, discomfort, muscle spasm, and stress; and, to promote health and wellness. AMTA defines massage therapy as a profession in which the practitioner applies manual techniques, and may apply adjunctive therapies, with the intention of positively affecting the health and well-being of the client.

Massage therapy improves functioning of the circulatory, lymphatic, muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems and may improve the rate at which the body recovers from injury and illness.  Massage involves holding, causing movement of soft tissue, and/or applying pressure to the body.  It comes in many forms, including:

Swedish a gentle, relaxing massage;

Pressure point therapy for certain conditions or injuries

Sports massage which focuses on muscle groups relevant to the particular sport.

People find that therapeutic massage can help with a wide range of medical conditions, including:

allergies, anxiety, arthritis:
(both Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis)
asthma and bronchitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic and temporary pain
circulatory problems, depression, digestive disorders:
including spastic colon, constipation and diarrhea, headache, especially when due to muscle tension, insomnia. myofascial pain (a condition of the tissue connecting the muscles) reduced range of motion, sinusitis, sports injuries:
including pulled or strained muscles and sprained ligaments, stress, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)

Although massage therapy does not increase muscle strength, it can stimulate weak, inactive muscles and, thus, partially compensate for the lack of exercise and inactivity resulting from illness or injury.  It also can hasten and lead to a more complete recovery from exercise or injury.

Therapeutic massage can be inappropriate in some cases, such as in people with:
inflammation of the veins (phlebitis), infectious diseases, certain forms of cancer, some skin conditions, some cardiac problems, migrain headaches

If you have one of these or some other diagnosed medical condition, always check with your doctor before seeking a massage. Research on the effects of massage therapy has been ongoing for more than 120 years. A surge in research over the past 20 years has resulted in more than 100 published studies.