Did you know that massage therapy actually falls up under the heading of “alternative medicine?” The Cleveland Clinic’s Integrative Medicine Department offers massage therapy alongside of other options like acupuncture, chiropractic, holistic psychotherapy, Reiki, disease reversal programs, Chinese herbal therapy, and lifestyle management programs. Yet, many clients continue to see massage as a luxury, or pampering, and something you do when you are on vacation or at a resort. This, of course, is rooted in the fact that massage can FEEL so great but actually, if you were to list ALL the health benefits of skillful massage therapy, it would take up pages!
Massage therapy promotes health and well-being by way of soft tissue manipulation and movement of the body and its effects are increased the more massage you get. I am my own best example. I have been getting massage over 15 years. I find that when I am particularly stressed, and I take the time to get relaxation massage at least twice a month, I am better able to deal with whatever comes my way. I feel more centered and calm and I can think clearly. I am recalling right now how I made sure I got a 90 minute massage the night before I sat for my massage therapy Medical Board of Ohio exam in Columbus. I went from being totally stressed out (ok totally overwhelmed and losing my mind!) and anxious to being centered, calm, and focused to the point where I aced the test the first time out. By the same token, because I sustained a severe ankle injury several years ago I get deep tissue massage to maintain my mobility and reduce pain. If I get massage every now and then I am limping around and in pain way too much. However, when I get massage once a week I feel and move a 1000% better!
You see the benefits of massage are cumulative. Research tells us that the more massage you get, the greater benefits you reap. Here are just a few of the benefits of massage therapy:
- Decreased anxiety
- Enhanced sleep quality
- Greater energy/reduced fatigue
- Improved concentration
- Better circulation (because of oxygen and nutrients being pumped into the tissues and vital organs)
- Less low back pain and neck/shoulder pain – Increased sense of perspective and clarity
- Decreased pain from arthritis
- Decreased blood pressure readings
- Stress reduction and management
- Decrease in feelings of depression
- Enhanced immunity – the body’s natural defense system
- Speedy recovery from sports and strenuous exercise
- Improved athletic performance
- Increase in joint flexibility
- Reduced spasms and cramping in muscles
- Reversal of overuse and repetitive stress injuries (like those many of us experience in the workplace)
- A release endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers
- Less frequent headaches and migraines
Consequently, the medical community is actively embracing bodywork, and massage is becoming an integral part of hospice care and neonatal intensive care units. Many hospitals are also incorporating on-site massage practitioners and even spas to treat post-surgery or pain patients as part of the recovery process. But, again, the benefits of massage are compounded when massage is utilized as a frequent therapy. The more you get, the more it does. All you have to do is show up for your appointment! Taking part in this form of regularly-scheduled self-care plays a huge part in how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year. Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health. And remember: just because massage feels like a pampering treat doesn’t mean it is any less therapeutic. Consider massage appointments a necessary piece of your health and wellness plan, and work with your therapist to establish a treatment schedule that best meets your needs.