Massage can help a body in so many ways, and it’s recently dawned on me that many of the benefits are linked to a lot of New Years Resolutions.
Through receiving massage and becoming aware of your body and how it functions, you can enjoy physical and emotional benefits to help you reach your goals. Here are some examples:
1. Stress Less
Massage, primarily Swedish Massage, is well known as a relaxation technique. It relaxes the nervous system, slows breathing, and can even give you the physical and emotional sensation of sleeping even if you stay awake. Once your body is in a relaxed state, stress levels naturally decrease. After your massage you may feel groggy, which is normal and will fade once you get moving again. However, even after the grogginess wears off your body is energetically in a more relaxed state and mentally you can feel more aware and less sensitive to your daily stressors.
Be sure to actively participate in your relaxation if that is your goal for the massage session. Inform your therapist that you want to relax, close your eyes, tune out the world, breath slowly and deeply into your stomach, and feel your body release all your stress tension. Once the therapist is done with an area, forget about it. Forget you even have an arm or leg once it’s been worked on. Just let it be numb for awhile. Fall asleep if that’s what your body tells you is needed. Just be.
2. Work Out More
Muscle soreness can be in part due to muscle waste, like lactic acid, remaining in the muscle tissue. Tight muscles are constantly in flexion, so are constantly producing this muscle waste. They are also literally squeezing out their own blood supply, which prevents blood from flushing out these toxins for your body to process and remove.
Massage relaxes muscle tissue, which increases blood circulation in the area. By doing so, the muscle waste is flushed out by the blood. Once this waste is removed that work-out soreness is greatly reduced as the lactic acid is not longer built up. Not sore = better and more effective workouts!
3. Take Better Care of Yourself
Many people have very little idea of how their body moves or where pain starts. When we ask some clients “What time of day does your pain start?” or “What movement causes you pain?” we often get a blank stare. They only know they have pain. There where or why is a foreign idea.
Touch through massage brings an awareness to an area. Your therapist may find areas of pain or tension you were not even aware of and so didn’t know needed treated. May times these areas are interconnected. Once you become aware of what starts and sets off your pain you can take preventative measures. You’ll know what you can and can’t do, and when to get treatment before the pain actually starts.
4. Address Cellulite
Cellulite is basically fatty tissue that us protruding through your fascia, the tissue that connects your skin to the muscles underneath. When this happens the fatty tissue pushes the skin out, and the areas where the fascia is connecting skin to muscle won’t stretch as far as the spaces under the skin. This causes the skin to pucker where the fascia is pulling on the underside of the skin.
A Cellulite Massage is a specialized technique that stretches the fascia and levels out the fatty tissue, reducing that “cottage cheese” appearance by smoothing out the area. The fatty tissue should still be addressed with exercise and a healthy diet, but it’ll be a lot easier to see the results of your sweat-fest when the area doesn’t look so lumpy.
5. Be More Active
If you have pain, being active can be…well, painful. Massage can release muscle tension and trigger points, strip adhesions and scar tissue, correct postural deviations, improve blood flow, release pain-relieving chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, and so much more.
Pain is many times a vicious cycle. You have pain so you’re less active, but not exercising causes more pain. Massage can help to reduce the pain to allow you to be more active and get some exercise, which in turn will continue to reduce a lot of pain.
6. Be Happier
Those with chronic pain know it can take an emotional toll as well. You’re in pain, which sucks. You can’t do the things you want to do, which sucks. The pain seems to either not be getting better or is getting worse, which sucks!
Reducing your pain and being able to go back to doing some of the things you’ve had to give up can do wonders for a person’s overall well being. And when you’re happy, your brain releases more happy chemicals that can also help reduce pain!
7. Better Rest/More Energy
Stress and pain are two major causes of people loosing quality winks. As we touched on earlier, massage can help with both of these which can go a long way towards a better night’s rest and more energy the next day.
Additionally, once the initial “massage drunk” wears off, may people feel an increase in energy and focus after receiving massage. They’re not as distracted by pain or stress, and they’re full of all those happy chemicals flowing through their bloodstream. Many people report having more energy for several hours, days and even weeks after their massage.
8. More patience
Admit it. When you’re tired, stressed, sore or in pain you’re not exactly Mother Teresa. Reducing these stressors can go a long way to helping you get through traffic, your co-workers, kids and daily life.
Additionally, we’ve become a quick-fix society with our health as well. It’s become preferred to take the magic pill or latest fad diet than get to the root of the problem. Massage can make you more aware of what’s really needed, and you can physically feel the difference it can make long term instead of settling for the quick cure.
9. Open mindedness
Alternative medicine, although becoming more popular and widely accepted, is still…well…”alternative”. Many will still continue to dismiss us alternative care providers as “witch-doctors” and “rip-offs”. Never-mind that what we now call “alternative” has been around longer than modern medicine.
Once you’ve seen the effectiveness of massage you may consider trying other forms of alternative care, like acupuncture or chiropractic. Maybe after that you’ll try energy work. Once you’re willing to be more open minded about things with less judgement in your eyes you might just realize there’s a wealth of knowledge and possibilities for you to discover.
10. Better Self-Image
Massage can help you get past body issues. We professionals do not hold judgement on any body shape, type, more or hair follicle. Many clients realize after being accepted by their massage therapist that they were making a bigger deal out of their body issues than what is actually there.
So you see, massage is much more than a glorified lotion application. I’ll admit massage cannot do all the work for you; but through massage, self care and self discovery it is certainly a viable tool to help you on your journey to what you might wish to accomplish.
Jennifer Parker, Body Harmony Massage
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(Image from nytimes.com)