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How Can Massage Improve Your Health
by Chris Bhurrut

How Can Massage Improve Your Health?

Last Mothers Day, I hinted to my husband how much I enjoy a massage, hoping for a nice gift certificate to a spa to receive a 60-minute massage given by a trained massage therapist (preferably someone who looks like Hugh Jackman). Instead, he offered to give me a massage whereby he lit a Glade candle, massaged my neck and back for around 3 minutes, 20 seconds and then said it was his turn. I guess I should have been more specific (except for the Hugh Jackman part!).

What I should have told him was I deserved a professional massage for all the hard work I do as a mother as well as providing part of our income, managing finances and doing of the housework (likely 7/8, but whos counting?). More importantly, I should have told him all about the amazing health benefits of massage therapy. I decided to start with the health benefit pitch before laying on the guilt trip.

What are the health benefits? Isnt massage just one of those nice "spa" experiences? Not at all. Massage therapy is used in both conventional and alternative medicine treatment plans for a variety of health concerns and conditions. During a massage, a trained massage therapist using their fingertips, fists and hands to manipulate deep tissue. The benefit to the body is both direct and indirect.

Directly, massage can relieve sore muscles and reduce inflammation. Though inflammation is the bodys natural response to injury, it is often the cause of pain and further tissue injury. Systemic inflammation due to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle is now being thought to cause or exacerbate a number of health conditions. It is also partially behind premature aging. Massage also increases blood flow to the muscles.

Indirectly, massage aids the body by facilitating the release and/or decrease of certain hormones. Serotonin and dopamine release is increased after massage therapy. Serotonin is a calming hormone that promotes a sense of peace and well-being. Dopamine is a pleasure hormone, which also promotes a more positive feeling. Endorphins (the bodys natural painkillers) are also released. Moreover, cortisol, a stress hormone, is decreased.

The health benefits of massage therapy have quite a wide scope when you consider all that massage can do both directly and indirectly.

Because of the release of both serotonin and dopamine, massage can decrease anxiety. In studies, massage therapy reduced anxiety in adults during a smoking cessation program. It also released anxiety in women who were anorexic and children who were depressed. During labor, women given massage had less stress and anxiety as well as more relaxed muscles and less pain. Massage can also aid in alcohol withdrawal by relieving some of the anxiety and promoting a sense of peace.

In certain medical conditions, pain management is the chief goal of treatment. Massage therapy was shown to decrease pain in patients with fibromyalgia, migraines and those recovering from surgery. In some cases, back pain can also be relieved depending on the type of injury. A chiropractor can advise on the type of injury and whether massage therapy would be beneficial. Massage can also decrease muscle pain after exercise or participation in sports because of the increased blood flow to the muscles that were worked the most. Recovery time is lessened.

How about children? Childhood diabetes is difficult to manage. Imagine all the usual arguments we have with our children and then having to fight them on such an important issue as managing blood glucose levels through diet, glucose monitoring and insulin compliance. Studies show that diabetic children who received daily massages from their parents had more controlled blood glucose levels due to heightened compliance with their diet and insulin.

Premature infants also benefit from massage. Daily massage by caregivers or parents allowed premature infants to go home earlier because they gained adequate weight more quickly. Infant massage can also reduce colic and promote better sleep.

Above all, massage therapy can reduce stress. Stress can cause or exacerbate many diseases or health conditions. Repeated release of the stress hormone, cortisol, is linked to obesity, premature aging and heart disease. It is also thought to slow healing and speed up the disease process of many health conditions.

After learning all of the major health benefits of massage, I thought I had a much better presentation to secure my next gift - possibly my Christmas gift. I shared all of the information with my husband and he vehemently agreed. I began imagining myself in the serene atmosphere of our local spa when my plan fizzled. Hed decided it was high time he had a massage! Next time, I think Ill stick with the guilt trip!

Article written by Mary Franz for Circles of Light a personal development blog where you can learn about massage classes in Orange County.

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