Massage Therapy: Why You Need It
Massage therapy has been practiced for thousands of years, originating in ancient China around 2,700 B.C for treatment of various ailments and disease, and later referenced by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, as essential to the skills of any physician. Even the ancient Greeks used massage before and after sporting events to prevent injury.
In today’s society, where cancer, anxiety, depression and stress abound, massage therapy can be a surefire preventative measure to advocate good health and overall well-being.
What is Massage Therapy?
Its benefits have gained increasing attention, surpassing use for leisure alone, as seen from a recent survey by the American Massage Therapy Association; reporting that more than 30% of Americans use massage for pain relief, and 90% of surveyed participants feel it is an effective means of reducing pain.
Though each style of massage targets a different need, they all consist of a licensed practitioner using their hands, feet, forearms or elbows to apply various degrees of pressure on the musculoskeletal system.
The primary goals of massage therapy are to:
- Stimulate circulation to areas that need healing
- Realign tissues in the body for proper blood flow and posture
- increase the range of motion of joints to provide proper biomechanical movement
- Relieve unwanted pressure and decrease stress
All of these in turn can improve the functioning of the immune system, as well as facilitate healing of damaged tissue from of an injury. The noticeable lessening of muscle and back pain is due to a decrease in muscle inflammation as the pressure and movements are applied to the body. Multiple studies have shown the following benefits:
- Reduced headaches
- Improved sleep
- Helped symptoms of osteoarthritis
- Relieved nausea, general fatigue, depression and anxiety
- Pain relief for those suffering from arthritis
- Improved breathing for asthmatics
- Lower blood pressure for those with hypertension
- Decrease in water retention and cramping for pre-menopausal women
Though the benefits of massage therapy are clear, with several types to choose from it can be overwhelming to choose the best fit for you. After learning about the unique effects of each, it may be helpful to assess your personal needs before seeking a local therapist.
The different forms of available therapy include:
- Swedish: Long, kneading strokes and circular movements, loosens muscles and promotes relaxation
- Deep-Tissue/Trigger-Point: Applies concentrated pressure to “trouble points” or specific muscle knots, good for healing after an injury
- Sport: Adapted to the particular muscular needs of an athlete and their sport; increases flexibility, prevents injury or helps heal muscle strain
- Shiatsu: Specific “finger-point” pressure to acupressure points on the body, relieves blockage
- Thai: Therapist uses their body to move the patient into different positions, in order to facilitate muscle compression, joint mobilization and acupressure
- Hot-Stone: Heated stones are placed at acupressure points on the body to relax and relieve pressure
- Reflexology: Hand, thumb and finger techniques applied to pressure points on the feet that correspond to various areas of the body; promotes overall health
The ideal massage will leave you feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. It should not be exceedingly painful, and if it is, be sure to let the practitioner know so they can adjust their technique accordingly. Be patient and persistent in your search for the right fit—whether you’re battling a disease, stress or just need to relax a little, the benefits are well worth it.