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Understanding Massage Therapy Benefits

Did you know that massage therapy benefits include better health and well-being, improved healing of soft-tissue injuries, improved posture and alignment, and less pain?

These benefits are so important that Tiffany Field, Ph.D., founder of the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute, said in an April 6, 1998, Newsweek article that massage can help maintain overall health as much as proper diet and exercise do.

Foot Massage | Massage Therapy Benefits

Research continues to validate the benefits of massage. As you read through the following reasons to receive massage, remember that not all types of massage or all massage therapists offer all the benefits discussed.

Relaxation massage is different from massage to treat injury or improve alignment. Know what you want, and find a massage therapist who offers it.

Better Health and Well-Being

The better you feel, the more energy and passion you have to deal with the challenges of life and pursue your interests. Let's look at some of the many ways that massage therapy benefits your health and well-being.

Stress Relief

Massage reverses your body's response to negative stress by creating the relaxation response, which includes reducing heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. Research also suggests that massage reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Massage can also sharpen your body awareness, so you're more sensitive to early signs of stress and can deal with them before they become major.

Improved Movement

Massage relaxes tense muscles, helps tissue become more elastic and flexible, and increases joint range of motion, making movement easier in both daily activities and sports and recreational activities. And, because your body is less tense and more flexible, making it better able to adapt to your movements, you're less likely to injure yourself.

Additional massage therapy benefits include:

  • Improving the function of your immune system.
  • Helping you sleep better. Sleep deprivation is a major problem and contributes to many accidents, not to mention cloudy thinking.
  • Promoting deeper and easier breathing, helping your body get more of the oxygen needed for good health.
  • Reducing anxiety, calming your mind, and relaxing you, all of which helps you think and function more clearly.

Less Pain

Massage also helps relieve muscle aches and pains. Some supporting research:

Also see massage therapy benefits for relieving chronic pain.

Massage Therapy Benefits for Soft-Tissue Injury

Targeted massage can help soft-tissue injuries (such as muscle pulls and strains, ligament sprains, tendonitis, and whiplash) heal faster. Read more about massage for injury.

Better Posture and Alignment

Good body alignment improves overall body function, lets you move easier, and decreases the chances of pain and injury.

In part, proper alignment means that your shoulders and hips are level, your knees align directly over your ankles, and your feet point straight ahead. Being out of alignment places a lot of stress on your body. For example, misaligned hips create torque, stressing muscles and wearing away cartilage in joints.

When it comes to body alignment, bones position themselves based on the forces created by the muscles. Realigning your body requires relaxing tight muscles and making weak muscles stronger. A series of weekly, targeted massage sessions can help improve alignment. Just be sure you find a massage therapist who works specifically on alignment because many therapists don't.

A common form of misalignment is a forward tilting pelvis (that is, your hips are rolled forward). "Forward pelvic tilt is the source of much of the minor low back pain that many of us take for granted as we get into our thirties and forties. By increasing the arch of the spine, this dysfunction is like a hairline crack in the wall of a dam. The overall structure is weakened. In time the crack gets wider. The constant flexion of the spine, beyond its normal range, is putting wear and tear on the vertebral disks."*

Another common misalignment is outward-pointing (everted) feet. "The situation is the rough equivalent of having two flat tires. The big gait muscles of the leg have stopped working. The feet evert because the gait muscles have become lazy and transferred the walking function to the hip flexor muscles."*

Note: Telling yourself to stand up straight doesn't work for two reasons. First, many people’s concept of straight is NOT good alignment. Second, when you stop thinking "stand up straight" your body goes back to its programmed position. You must change this programming. One of the best ways to change is using a combination of massage (or other bodywork) and alignment exercises, such as those in the following books:

*Quotes from Peter Egoscue's The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion and Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain.

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Photo Credit: Massage Nerd