By Sandra Muyambo
Whereas various healing therapies have been introduced by man to date â€“ the touch therapy, yoga, acapuncture, meditation and many othersÂ ,the massage has remained the most convenient and muscle-relaxing activity that can be administered to the human body.
A soothing massage can help you unwind, but that’s not all. Explore the possible health benefits and risks of massage therapy, plus what to expect (Mayo clinic staff).
If you’ve never tried a massage, learn about the possible health benefits of massage and what to expect during a massage therapy session.
What is a massage?
Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage therapists typically use their hands and fingers for massage but may also use their forearms, elbows and even feet. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure techniques.
Touch is the core ingredient of massage therapy and also combines science and art. Practitioners learn specific techniques for massage and use their sense of touch to determine the right amount of pressure to apply to each person and locate areas of tension and other soft-tissue problems. Touch also conveys a sense of caring, an important component in the healing relationship.
When muscles are overworked, waste products such as lactic acid can accumulate in the muscle, causing soreness, stiffness, and even muscle spasm.
Massage improves circulation, which increases blood flow, bringing fresh oxygen to body tissues. This can assist the elimination of waste products, speed healing after injury, and enhance recovery from disease.
Therapeutic massage can be used to promote general well-being and enhance self-esteem, while boosting the circulatory and immune systems to benefit blood pressure, circulation, muscle tone, digestion, and skin tone. It has been incorporated into many health systems, and different massage techniques have been developed and integrated into various complementary therapies.
There are many different types of massage, including these common types:
Swedish massage: This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibrationÂ andÂ tapping to help relax and energise you.
Deep-tissue massage: This massage technique uses slower, more forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
Sports massage: This is similar to Swedish massage but is geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
Trigger point massage: This massage focuses on trigger points, or sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.
Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.
While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage helpful for:
– Stress relief
– Managing anxiety and depression
– Blood pressure control
– Infant growth
– Sports-related injuries
– Boosting immunity
– Cancer treatment (The Health Benefits of Massage: By Anita Brown)
Massage has many important health benefits as itÂ can help you maintain physical, mental and emotional well being, especially when it is part of your regular wellness routine.
* Massage calms the nervous system and promotes a sense of relaxation and well being.
* Massage reduces tension and anxiety.
* Massage improves blood circulation, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
* Massage stimulates the lymphatic system, which carries away the bodyâ€™s waste products.
* Massage prevents and relieves muscle cramps and spasms.Â
* Alleviates discomfort during pregnancy.
* Fosters faster healing of strained muscles and sprained ligaments; reduces pain and swelling; reduces formation of excessive scar tissue.
* Enhances athletic performance; Treats injuries caused during sport or work.
* Promotes deeper and easier breathing.
* Reduces blood pressure.
* Helps relieve tension-related headaches and effects of eye-strain.
* Enhances the health and nourishment of skin.
* Improves posture.
* Strengthens the immune system.
* Treats musculoskeletal problems (Source: AMTA).
* Massage therapy can help with pain management in conditions such as arthritis, sciatica, muscle spasms.
Remind yourself of these health benefits if you start to feel guilty about getting massage!
Massage is not a good idea if you have a fever, infections, inflammation, osteoporosis and other medical conditions. Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often involves caring, comfort, a sense of empowerment and creating deep connections with their massage therapist. Research in massage therapy has been ongoing for more than 120 years.
Here are some reported benefits of massage:
Medical school students at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School who were massaged before an exam showed a significant decrease in anxiety and respiratory rates, as well as a significant increase in white blood cells and natural killer cell activity, suggesting a benefit to the immune system.
Preliminary results suggested cancer patients had less pain and anxiety after receiving therapeutic massage at the James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio.
Women who had experienced the recent death of a child were less depressed after receiving therapeutic massage, according to preliminary results of a study at the University of South Carolina.
Studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found massage beneficial in improving weight gain in HIV-exposed infants and facilitating recovery in patients who underwent abdominal surgery. At the University of Miami School of Medicine’s Touch Research Institute, researchers have found that massage is helpful in decreasing blood pressure in people with hypertension, alleviating pain in migraine sufferers and improving alertness and performance in office workers.
Research has verified that:
– Office workers massaged regularly were more alert, performed better and were less stressed than those who weren’t massaged.
– Massage therapy decreased the effects of anxiety, tension, depression, pain, and itching in burn patients.
– Abdominal surgery patients recovered more quickly after massage.
– Premature infants who were massaged gained more weight and fared better than those who weren’t.
– Autistic children showed less erratic behavior after massage therapy.
– According AMTA, massage helps both physically and mentally.
Mental Benefits of Massage Therapy: Fosters peace of mind, Promotes a relaxed state of mental alertness, Helps relieve mental stress, Improves ability to monitor stress signals and respond appropriately, Enhances capacity for calm thinking and creativity.
Emotional Benefits: Satisfies needs for caring nurturing touch, Fosters a feeling of well-being, Reduces levels of anxiety, Creates body awareness, Increases awareness of mind-body connection.
Despite its benefits, massage isn’t meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you’re trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.
Risks of massage:
Massage is generally safe as long as it’s done by a trained massage therapist. But massage is not appropriate for everyone. Discuss massage with your doctor first.
Certain medical conditions require the exercise of caution concerning the advisability of giving or receiving massage. If you are in any doubt, or if you or your partner are under medical supervision, check with your doctor or other qualified medical practitioner before embarking on massage therapy. This advice applies particularly in the case of cardiovascular conditions and heart disease, especially in cases of thrombosis, phlebitis, and oedema.
Never apply pressure under or over varicose veins. Never massage directly over infected skin, for example where there are warts, herpes, or boils, or where there is inflammation, unexplained lumps, bruises and open cuts. While giving a massage, cover up any open cuts or scratches on your hands with a plaster or other dressing. Massage on the abdomen is best avoided during the first three months of pregnancy when the risk of miscarriage is highest.
The causes of acute back pain should first be diagnosed by a physician before receiving massage treatment. Consult a qualified medical practitioner in cases of raised temperature, infections, or contagious disease.
Seek medical advice before having a massage if you suffer from phlebitis, thrombosis, varicose veins, severe acute back pain, or fever.
Swellings, fractures, skin infections, or bruises should not be massaged. Lumps and swellings should be checked by your doctor.
Massage of the abdomen, legs, and feet should not be given during the first three months of pregnancy.
Cancer patients are best treated by specially trained practitioners who know which areas to avoid and which kind of massage is appropriate.
Some forms of massage can leave you feeling a bit sore the next day. But massage shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable. If any part of your massage doesn’t feel right or is painful, speak up right away. Most serious problems come from too much pressure during massage.
In rare circumstances, massage can cause: internal bleeding, nerve damage, temporary paralysis, allergic reactions to massage oils or lotionsÂ (1998-2010 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER)).