By Terrilee Williams, Patient Educator

One of the things I like best and look forward to is a massage.  What a treat to have a massage!!  But there are other benefits as well. Massage is sometimes seen as more of a luxurious action during a spa weekend, but did you know it can also be a lifesaver for those experiencing pain and side effects from illnesses, disorders, and conditions. Massage therapy has a number of incredible benefits for a wide variety of people. Here are some benefits you might not have thought about

Here’s Why You Should Book Your Next Massage ASAP

A short article from the Huffington Post Healthy Living page discusses the vital reasons that massage therapy may be beneficial to you and your overall health. It touches on the important factor that as humans we should not feel guilty for getting a massage (due to their “luxurious” nature) because it can actually help you in a number of ways. While some may go to the spa solely to relax, others are actually getting a massage because of an issue or ailment with their body. The article discusses the different benefits of massage with valid evidence to back up those specific claims. According to multiple studies, massage therapy can reduce pain, help you sleep, ward of colds and flu, heighten your alert senses, ease cancer treatments and side effects, alleviate depression, and decrease headaches. A section of the article even discusses the science behind stress reduction overall and how important it is to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

General Benefits of Massage

When your body is in pain it is natural to want to fight that pain and get rid of it as soon as humanly possible. Some people who suffer from Arthritis have found that a soothing massage can help with the stress and extreme pain they feel from inflammation in their joints. It has been studied and found to be true that any type of massage that helps alleviate pain in the joints and muscles of your body is helpful and that directly correlates to the issues those who have Arthritis face on a daily basis. Massage is key to improvements in pain, stiffness, range of motion, hand grip strength and overall function of the joints It is reported that moderate to light pressure is the best for these types of patients. “The critical things is using moderate pressure… light pressure, just touching the surface of the skin or brushing it superficially, is not getting at those pressure receptors. Light pressure can be stimulating, not relaxing,” she said.  Massage therapy can really help those with Arthritis.

Studies show that there are various beneficial effects of massage therapy for insomnia in postmenopausal women. Menopause comes with a lot of undesirable issues and insomnia is just one of the many things that can affect your body and ultimately your life. While hormone therapy used to be something that was believed to be potentially helpful, new research shown that there are cardiovascular risks associated with it as well potential development of tumors.  Improvement in sleep patterns of those who used massage therapy are found to be very beneficial. 

Neck pain is one of the most pesky and irritating issues to deal with. An article from the Health section of U.S. News & World Report talks about a study done to show massage benefits for neck pain. Research shows that with the help of a professional therapist and the proper length of time, you can relieve neck pain for good. Karen Sherman, a senior scientific investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, conducted a study in which the effects of one month of massage were tested. In retrospect, what was found in the end was that those who chose a one hour massage three times a week had much more significant improvement with their pain than those who did not. Sherman made it clear that doctors often recommend various anti-inflammatory medicines (like Naproxen) but they don’t actually give the patient much pain relief. She stated, “People with back and neck pain aren’t usually satisfied with what they get from their doctor, so they are looking around for something that works.” Because of how many people experience neck pain on a regular basis, Sherman found it pertinent that this study is done in order to show unsatisfied patients that there are other options to help with excruciating neck pain, such as a massage, chiropractic care and special neck exercises.

Anxiety and depression can cause a number of issues in one’s social and professional life and can also cause other health-related issues as well. It is true that these types of disorders can be treated with medications but some people do not want to be taking medications when there are alternative routes and options. Massage therapy is one of those alternative forms of medication to help a patient overcome anxiety and depression related issues. A study conducted at the Touch Research Institute showed that 30 minutes of massage therapy improved the mood and behavior of patients hospitalized for depression, etc. While many are still not sure exactly how massage therapy works to alleviate anxiety and depression, there are studies continually being conducted to find out more information into how massage therapy works in the body in regard to these issues. It is guessed that “perhaps it is the combined effect of focused, caring attention and tactile stimulation, or perhaps the muscular relaxation signals used in the brain to shift to a more calm state.” The author also stresses that massage therapy alone should not be the source of treatment for those who are depressed and suffer from anxiety. Instead, massage therapy should be used as a treatment to accompany whatever other treatment the patient has decided to use to help them.

In future blog posts we will discuss massage and its benefits to immune function, elderly people, MS patients, cancer treatment, kids with autism, fibromyalgia, and the cardiovascular system,.