Health benefits of massages

Getting a massage is often thought of as nothing more than a luxury. While it’s ok to spoil yourself occasionally, you might find it difficult to justify the expense of a massage on a regular basis. If that’s the case, we have news for you — massages are actually good for your health! Sometimes they are even prescribed as a medical treatment! Let’s talk about the health benefits of massages, according to The Mayo Clinic.

Different types of massage

There are many different types of massages, and each type treats the body differently. Whether you want to focus on a particular area of your body (like your neck or feet), or are looking for full body relief, you should be able to find a licensed massage therapist to do this work near you.

The most common form of full body massage is a Swedish massage. This term is generally used to describe basic pressing and rubbing of the skin and muscles. This is commonly used for relaxation and to release some muscle tension.

You may also see specialty massages on a spa menu, like Aromatherapy and Hot Stone massages. These typically use the Swedish massage method paired with gentle scents or heated stones for enhanced relaxation.

Next is a Deep Tissue massage, which uses more focused, forceful strokes to reach trouble areas deep under the skin. If you’ve been treated for muscle damage, you might have had a deep tissue massage incorporated in your treatment plan. Some people report feeling sore after a deep tissue massage, since their muscles are worked so thoroughly.

Another type of massage gaining popularity is the Thai massage. This is very different from the Swedish massage, as it aligns closely with Thai and other eastern medicines. Rather than using a table, you lie on the floor as your therapist moves your limbs for you, gently stretching joints and massaging pain points. It’s been known to increase range of motion, according to WebMD.

You can also get different forms of Chair massages. These are typically shorter, less intense massages that focus on a specific area instead of your whole body. Instead of lying on a table, you sit in a special chair and lean forward against a support. The therapist can then focus on your head, neck, and/or back. Anyone who has gotten a pedicure probably received a foot and leg massage as part of their service. Though nail technicians are not licensed massage therapists, this simple massage is extremely gratifying for many people.

Benefits of regular massages

Reduce stress

The most well-known benefit of massage is relaxation. As it’s nearly impossible to give yourself a back massage, the feeling of having a licensed therapist do the work for you is great — physically and mentally. Massages also provide a designated amount of time where you must “unplug”. You’re unable to answer the phone or respond to emails. It’s the ultimate “me time”!

Reduce muscle tension

Do you find that you carry stress in your shoulders, like so many others? Or maybe you tweaked your back while weeding your garden. No matter what feels tight, regular massages can ease your muscle tension and get rid of knots. The more often you give this attention to your body, the less tense it will feel.

Improve circulation

Because your muscles are being worked, massage actually improves blood circulation throughout the body. Congested areas are cleared, so strained muscles can get more oxygen-rich blood to assist in healing. In a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago, those who got a massage after exercise reported no ongoing muscle soreness.

Lower heart rate & blood pressure

Along with better circulation, massage has actually been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate. In another study, massage therapy proved to be a safe way to control blood pressure in women with pre-hypertension (a predictor of heart disease). Not only that, but the effects seem to last: “72 hours after finishing the study, still there was a significant difference between the test and control groups in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.” - Mahshid Givi, International Journal of Preventive Medicine

Boost the immune system

While more studies are needed to accurately affirm this benefit, preliminary studies show that Swedish massage increases your lymphatic flow, which brings important nutrients to the body. This makes it easier for your body to fight off infections and may even help immunocompromised patients.

Massage risks

While massages have many health benefits, this type of treatment is not for everyone. It’s important to speak to your doctor if you have any disorders that affect your blood or veins, including thrombosis or low platelet counts. If you have osteoporosis or broken bones, massages aren’t a good idea. If you have questions, always consult your doctor first.

While some forms of massage (like Deep Tissue) may leave you feeling sore, massages should not be painful. If something hurts, speak up! Your therapist will be able to adjust and customize your massage for your unique needs.

And as always, be sure to seek out a professional. Untrained massagers can do more harm than good. Massage therapists practice for at least 300 hours in order to become licensed. Always be sure to book your massage at a trustworthy establishment where your therapist’s license is displayed.

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