Jennifer made a Saturday massage appointment at her local spa in anticipation of the next few weeks at work. She knew that it was going to be a very stressful stretch because of some impending deadlines and critical meetings. A long massage would be the perfect outlet to reduce her current stress, muscle tension and anxiety. She always felt more relaxed and at ease after a good massage and taking the opportunity to start off this difficult stretch as relaxed as possible seemed the way to go.
It used to be that most people saw massages as a luxury, but more and more people are starting to see massage therapy as an essential part of maintaining their physical and emotional well being. The growing recognition of the health benefits of massage, along with the enjoyment it provides are encouraging many people to get them on a regular basis.
What are the health benefits of massage therapy?
Massage is one of the oldest manual therapies, dating back thousands of years, but unfortunately scientists have paid little attention to it until recently. Thus, there are limited studies on the health benefits of massage, but what the studies are showing is that massage therapy can help:
- Induce a sense of relaxation and well being: Massage can ease mental stress and reduce tension, fatigue and anxiety. It may also be a beneficial tool for people undergoing cancer treatments.
- Manage and relieve pain: Massage can relax muscle tension and relieve muscle spasms and pain. It may also be a great pain management tool for people suffering from back pain, fibromyalgia, labor pains or arthritis.
- Increase blood flow: Massage increases blood flow to the skin and muscles, which can help improve circulation and reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
- Increase range of motion: Massage can help increase range of motion of joints after injury.
Even though massage can be helpful, it should not be a substitute for medical treatment. If you have an injury or a medical condition, see your doctor for the best course of treatment.
How is a massage done?
A massage can be performed on the entire body or it can target certain areas, such as the back, neck, shoulders, hands or feet. It usually involves some form of kneading and stroking of the skin and the placing of pressure on tense, tight muscles. However, there are many different types of massage styles, such as hot stones, stretching, traction, pressure points, etc. All of these techniques have different strengths and weaknesses. That’s why it is important to pick a massage style that fits what you want to get out of the massage. So, talk to your massage therapist prior to the massage and they will help you pick the right massage for your needs.
What all good massages should have in common is that they are supposed to feel good, be comfortable and leave you feeling relaxed and sometimes even energized. Of course, when very tight, tense muscles are massaged you may feel some discomfort, but it should not leave you more painful, more tense or sore afterwards. If that is the case, then too much pressure may have been applied.
But they’re so expensive!
I know that a lot of you are thinking that regular massages can get quite expensive. But there are a few ways to make it cheaper. I’ll go from the cheapest to most expensive.
- Learn massage: If you and a friend or relative learn massage, you could give them to each other for free.
- Go to a massage school: If you get a massage from a massage student at the school’s facility, the price is much cheaper than a certified massage therapist.
- Quantity Discount: Ask your massage therapist if you can work out a discount if you pay for a few massages in advance.
The bottom line:
Massage therapy has a host of wonderful health benefits that can have a positive impact on your emotional and physical well being. So, don’t feel guilty about getting a massage. Enjoy it because it is good for you, after all!