Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Benefits of Massage Therapy

I have been getting massages for years. Originally, as a way to pamper on my birthday or Mother's day and on occasion, just because life was crazy and I needed some down time. However, in the past few years, working more and more stressful jobs and just the regular stress associated with being a single parent, I found massage to be more and more about taking care of myself and less as a treat. In fact, I now consider massage more about health than I do a luxury. I am certain there are plenty of people with still consider massage a luxury and that may be true, but for me, massage has become a luxury I cannot afford to live without. 

My regular massages started with some serious lower back pain which had a huge impact on my quality of life and my ability to get my work done. Yoga was helpful, but having someone get all those pesky trigger points out of my muscles really made a huge difference. I had been going to physical therapy for over a year and could not stop the pain I was having in my lower back and hip. Regular massages seemed to help and actually led me to the chiropractor. (My regular massage therapist stuck her elbow in my sciatic nerve, which immediately stopped the relentless pain which had me suffering for over a year), she told me that I should try her chiropractor. Ironically, two visits to the chiropractor and my back pain was gone, my hip pain was gone and I literally felt as if I had a new lease on life. The chiropractor had his own massage therapist, who would give me a nice quickie of a massage to relax my muscles before the manipulation was performed by the doc. This is when all the interconnectedness (Is that a word?) hit me.... My muscles are so tight from all the stress, my spine is out of alignment, it is all related.... It got to the point where the massage therapist could trigger a migraine by massaging one particular pesky trigger point in my back. Yep, that very knot in my back may very well be causing my migraines. Sounds crazy, right? I kid you not, I could actually feel a migraine starting in that very muscle, by getting the tension out of that muscle and subsequently drinking enough water to flush all of those toxins out of my system, I could head off days in bed, in the dark.

With all of that said, depending on my financial circumstances, I have made massage a regular part of my routine. I will skip a haircut, if money is tight, but, I will not skip my massage. Now that I am researching the negative impact excess cortisol production can have on my body, I feel validated in my every other week luxury, because if there is one thing I know for sure, regular massages help my physical body manage stress better. The tighter those muscles get in my back and neck, the more difficulty I have getting through the day. Stress causes those muscle spasms and those muscle spasms cause me more stress and more difficulty dealing with stress. 

I was not surprised at all to find massage listed as one of the ways to help conquer cortisol and its negative impacts. But, I wanted to set out to find some evidence for this theory before posting about it.

I found numerous staggering statistics about stress. Experts estimate that upwards of 90% of disease can be attributed to stress. That really is an amazing statistic. From mental health issues like depression to obesity, heart disease and everything in between. Stress can be responsible for many conditions AND makes other conditions worse.

Research shows amazing benefits of massage therapy and it appears that regular massages compound the benefits.

Among the list of physical benefits:
Pain Relief
Reduced cramps and spasms
Reduced adhesions 
Reduced swelling
Increased flexibility
Relief of migraine and stress or tension headaches
Reduce scar tissue
Increase circulation
Alleviate tight, weak or atrophied muscles

Don't some of these things remind you of the list of complications caused by sustained cortisol release?

To me, these benefits alone are enough to consider massage therapy a regular part of your healthy lifestyle. An astounding number of workers miss at least one day of work due to lower back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, Americans spend $50 Billion per year on back pain (this is just the identified costs) and is the number two cause of missed work, behind upper-respiratory infections. In fact, Back Pain is the leading cause of disability in the US, according to a 2010 study on the Global Burden of Diseases, published by the Lancet. With that kind of data backing it up, the removal of back pain should make massage therapy more of a priority rather than luxury for some.

Besides the incredible number of physical benefits, consider the psychological benefits of massage therapy. 

Decreased Anxiety & Depression
Increased Energy
Enhanced Sleep Quality
Reduced Fatigue
Improved Concentration

We have seen over the past few days, as I research stress, significant amounts of stress can cause a host of physical and psychological problems. Nothing ages us quicker than stress. While ideally, we would eliminate this age-inducing, disease promoting stress all together, that is likely unrealistic for most of us. Certainly, reducing the negative effect of stress should be considered in lieu of eliminating it entirely. Massage is definitely one way to reduce these negative effects.

Dating back 3000 years and one of the oldest healing arts, massage therapy promises to be an impressive way of reducing stress. There is plenty of evidence supporting the benefits of massage on patients with migraines, chronic pain, sleep disturbances and other chronic conditions. Millions of people can attest to the relief of stress and tension received when getting regular body work (Massage). Regular massages should be considered another powerful tool in your quest to reduce stress and improve your health and well-being.

I for one have a massage pre-scheduled for each payday. I need to make my health a bigger priority in my own life. How about you? Do you make massage therapy a regular part of your routine?

Click here to read more about the benefits of massage therapy.
MedlinePlus has an astounding list of 486 research papers on the benefits of massage therapy.

Current Clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of massage therapy on different conditions can be viewed at the Here

Read more about Stress and the damage it can do to your body as well as some ways to reduce the negative effects of long term stress:


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