Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

The latest massage therapy information: A massage not only feels good. It's also good for your health!

If you're hesitating on booking that massage, don't. Massage not only feels good; it's good for you. Read on to learn the health benefits of massage therapy and find out why a session with a massage therapist is such a great Mother's Day gift.

Moms put their families’ needs before their own — it’s what makes them moms. Come Mother’s Day, those tables turn for 24 magical hours. That’s when kids and dads go all out to lavish a little TLC on mom in return, which is why a take-me-away massage is always such a popular present.

An hour’s massage is more than a relaxation session; it’s an investment in well-being that helps relieve the physical stresses and tension built up by the daily act of mothering. Muscles can seize up when you’re, say, carrying a toddler around on your hip. “You need to think of the body not just as muscle or skin but also as a skeleton,” says Terry Meyer, owner of Massage & Reflexology of Delaware in Wilmington. “It’s like a mobile: If you pull on one side, the other side is affected.” A massage rebalances the system in such a tranquil way, it’s not unusual to get lulled into a state of shut-eye.

“It’s OK for clients to fall asleep during a massage,” Meyer says. “It means they are relaxing at a deeper level. It’s almost like meditating; it really gives the body time to regroup.” Whether you catch a catnap or stay awake to luxuriate in every stroke, you’ll reap the following healthful benefits of massage.

Improved circulation

Massage increases blood circulation, one reason you feel so rejuvenated afterward. Better circulation lowers blood pressure and can decrease the frequency of headaches. It also hastens the healing of injuries and scars.

Release of good hormones

Massage triggers the delivery of endorphins. These brain chemicals decrease pain levels and give you a natural high. According to Avonne Spaulding of the Rizzieri School for Healing Arts in Voorhees, NJ the reduction of hormone levels also leads to decreased stress levels.

Better overall immunity

A massage improves the functioning of your lymphatic system, which is linked to your ability to avoid illness. And it works most efficiently when something puts the fluid called lymph in motion, spurring it to course through your body. “Think of muscle tension as a knotted hose,” says Meyer. “When you have a knot, the water only trickles. When this happens in a muscle, the blood that carries important nutrients and lymph slows its flow.” Massage gets things moving again.

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The cumulative effect of all of this is a looser-limbed, less-stressed you. And as Meyer points out, “When Mom feels good, everybody feels good.”

Methods of Massage
Massage therapists practice a variety of techniques. Some are designed to relax certain muscles or help you recover from conditions like postpartum depression or swelling after surgery (caveat: a massage is no substitute for a visit to a doctor).

Therapists tailor each session to a client’s needs by concentrating on specific areas. “Some people will ask for concentration on one area instead of a full body massage,” says Spaulding. Before massage therapists get to work, they’ll ask you questions about your health and areas of particular concern. A therapist can also give you advice on how often to get a professional massage.

Deep tissue: This massage concentrates on relaxing muscles and connective tissue. It’s effective for chronic muscle pain, injury recovery, arthritis and tendinitis.
Myofascial release: The therapist applies sustained pressure and movement on specific areas of tension. It’s effective for back pain, fibromyalgia, headaches and chronic pain.
Orthopedic: This type of massage treats injuries and soft-tissue pain.
Swedish: Designed to stimulate circulation, this is one of the most common massage techniques.
Trigger-point therapy: In this method, the therapist applies pressure on sore, tender spots.

Source: Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals

Rebecca VanderMeulen is a freelance writer from Downingtown. Her first child is due in May.

Categories: Mom Matters