When most people think of massage therapy, they usually think relaxation – in a spa, a massage club, or even as a treat in a resort on vacation. While relaxation is one benefit to massage, there are many more to consider. Massage is generally considered part of CAM, or complementary and alternative medicine. It is increasingly being offered as a standard treatment to many medical conditions.
There are many types of massage techniques, or modalities, which trigger different responses in the body. For example, lymphatic massage helps restore function to the lymph system and balance the body. This type of massage is useful if you’re feeling tired or sluggish, and can assist your body in clearing waste and swelling from tissues. For athletes, lymph vessels can become overwhelmed after a sports injury. Lymphatic massage can be a good treatment option as it helps the body remove proteins and waste products to reduce swelling. Lymphatic massage is also useful to those following surgery, especially when lymph nodes have been removed. Removal of lymph nodes usually causes swelling in limbs, and lymphatic massage can assist in moving fluid more effectively throughout the body and back to the heart.
Massage therapy can also have many benefits to your emotional and mental health. Massage therapy can assist in decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 60-minute massage can decrease cortisol levels by an average of 30%. As a result, serotonin levels increase. This can boost your body’s ability to fight off depression, anxiety, and stress. Also, the relief from pain you may experience following a massage will assist in lowering stress and anxiety. Massage can also refocus energy and increase awareness of the mind-body connection. Many people have experienced emotional releases from past trauma (physical or emotional) during or following a massage session. Massage can provide a safe, nurturing touch some people need, and this can be healing in and of itself.
Deep tissue massage targets deeper layers of muscles to release fascial adhesions, trigger points, and other areas of chronic pain. This type of work is great for those who sit at a desk all day, work manual labor, are active in sports and fitness, and even those recovering from injuries. This type of work can also be beneficial in treating fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia related to stress, and sports injuries. Deep tissue massage is also a great complement to other therapies, such as physical therapy and chiropractic care.
In addition to the many mental and physical benefits of massage therapy, it is also in some cases covered by insurance. Also, while there are plenty of positive reasons to regularly enjoy a massage as part of your health care, it isn’t meant as a replacement to regular medical care. Be sure to consult your physician when adding massage as part of a treatment plan for a medical condition.
By Jenell Consorti, LMBT, CKTP, Cary Orthopaedics and Spine Specialists
Sources: massagetherapy.org, mayoclinichealthsystems.org