Most people would probably agree that a massage is an excellent way to relax, and that even a quick shoulder or back massage just feels good! However, many people also wonder if a massage is actually good for you, and offers any real or tangible health benefits.
The short answer is that regular massages improve health in a variety of ways; doctors might even prescribe medical massages as part of overall treatment programs! Note a few details about massages and their long-term benefits you might enjoy. As always, discuss specific health concerns with a doctor, and notify a massage therapist if you have any health issues before your visit so he or she can adjust your treatment accordingly.
This article was written by our trained massage therapy professionals in Sarasota, Florida. If you’d like to learn more, reach out or visit the website at mindbodyworksmassage.com
What’s a Medical Massage and Why Is It Prescribed?
A medical massage therapist will have advanced training in anatomy, physiology, and other such courses. He or she administers a massage as directed by a doctor, and will usually work out of a medical clinic or hospital.
Medical massages often target a specific health condition or are used along with other treatment options. For example, if you’ve suffered a back injury, you might undergo surgery to correct spinal damage, and then be prescribed medical massages to help relax and strengthen affected muscles.
The benefits of a medical massage include faster healing and less risk of pain after surgery or while recovering from an injury. Increased muscle flexibility can also allow a patient to exercise more readily, which also aids in healing and allows for greater independence during recovery.
The Short-Term Benefits of Therapeutic Massage
Massage therapists working out of salons or spas, or who freelance and visit people’s home, typically offer what are called therapeutic massages. These treatments are designed to help a client relax, improve blood circulation, and ease stiff or sore muscles.
Regular therapeutic massage offers many benefits, both short-term and over the course of the years! Short-term or immediate benefits of therapeutic massage include increased relaxation and deeper, healthier breathing. Muscles will feel less tense and more flexible, which can alleviate a headache, sore back, or tense shoulders.
Many massage clients also report reduced anxiety and stress. Less physical pain and decreased anxiety can also mean better sleep at night and increased energy during the day! You might also enjoy better moods and increased concentration after a massage.
Therapeutic Massage Offers Cumulative Benefits!
You might not realize that the benefits of a massage increase the more often you schedule this treatment! Check out some reasons why regular massage is an investment in your overall, long-term health and wellbeing.
Increased range of motion
According to Science Daily, regular therapeutic massage can increase your range of motion, or ROM. Range of motion refers to how far you can move, reach, or stretch.
Inhibited or limited ROM can result in pain and stiffness just from everyday activities. For instance, if you’ve ever pulled a muscle while reaching for a high shelf, this might have been the fault of poor range of motion! Massage loosens tight muscles and makes them more flexible; in turn, those muscles can stretch further and more easily, decreasing the risk of injury and pain.
Massage for pain management and relief
Chronic pain can be debilitating, interfering with a person’s mobility, ability to sleep, and overall quality of life. Halena Gazelka, M.D., has said that, “Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability.” Dr. Gazelka also noted that pain “significantly” impacts the life of some 20 million Americans!
While some chronic pain might need medical intervention, many patients prefer non-medicinal alternatives to pain management when possible. Massage can help alleviate chronic pain, reducing stiffness and soreness and encouraging relaxation. According to Harvard Medical School, massage can also stimulate competing nerve endings, which blocks pain messages between the nerves and the brain.
Massage and mental health
Regular massage might actually improve your overall mental health! Massage therapy elevates the neurotransmitters that lower anxiety levels and alleviate depression. Since massage can help you relax and, in turn, sleep better, this can also mean less fatigue that often leads to mood disorders including anxiety and depression.
Studies have shown that even a brief massage can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. This can mean less stress and stress-related symptoms such as headaches, shoulder and neck pain, joint pain, jaw pain, and other such conditions.
Chronic pain sufferers might also struggle with depression, stress, and anxiety due to their condition. Using massage to help treat or manage pain can then also alleviate mental health issues caused by that pain, improving a patient’s overall quality of life.
How to Get the Most Benefit From a Massage
One vital tip for getting the most benefit from a massage is to communicate with your massage therapist! Regular communication is especially important when it comes to the type of massage you prefer and if you’re trying to address any specific concerns.
For instance, if you just want a relaxing massage, ask for a lighter touch; if you’re looking to address especially tense muscles, consider a deep tissue massage. A light touch massage encourages healthy blood circulation and muscle relaxation. Deep tissue massage “works” the muscles more completely, for greater flexibility.
As your massage progresses, note to your therapist if the massage seems too light or uncomfortable in any way. He or she can then adjust the pressure of the massage accordingly.
Your massage therapist might also recommend various massage types for helping you relax or to treat different conditions. For instance, hot stone massage helps alleviate tension and increases blood circulation, while keeping you toasty warm! If you tend to get overly cold in wintertime, a hot stone massage can help you relax and potentially sleep better.
Aromatherapy can also enhance massage benefits. Lavender, for example, might help you relax. Various mints or menthol oils can open up the sinuses, improving breathing. Applying certain cooling oils to the temples, neck, shoulders, and other areas during a massage might alleviate headaches, a stiff neck, and other chronic conditions.