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 Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, said in an April 6, 1998, Newsweek article, "[These benefits] put massage in the same category with proper diet and exercise as something that helps maintain overall health."
Research continues to validate the benefits of massage. As you read through the following benefits, 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.
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 benefits your health and well-being.
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.
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.
Massage also helps relieve muscle aches and pains. Read more about massage therapy benefits for relieving chronic pain.
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.
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).
Another common misalignment is everted feet. That is, your toes point outward when you stand or walk.
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.
Photo Credit: Massage Nerd