7 Reasons Massage Is a Healthy Boost for Your Mind & Body

7 Reasons Massage Is a Healthy Boost for Your Mind & Body

Find out why massages are more than a spa treat, and great for your health and spirit!

By Heather Chaet

When I hear the word “massage,” I think, “Oh, someone has a spa day coming up. Lucky gal!” But getting a massage is about more than being pampered. It helps a person’s immune system by boosting the count of those disease-fighting white blood cells, and is also a powerful pain reliever. Yes, massages have morphed from a luxury perk at a spa into a powerful treatment option for optimal health and wellbeing to store in our metaphorical medicine cabinets. We chatted with some massage therapists, who outlined the amazing benefits of massage, and offered tips on which types of massage you should try.

1. Massage lowers your stress and helps you sleep. This may seem like an obvious benefit of massage, since many people feel relaxed and ready for a nap after lying on that table, but regular massage therapy can actually help you train your body to relax, even when you aren’t at the spa. “Regular massage therapy is extremely beneficial, especially if someone is acutely stressed and feeling overwhelmed or isn’t sleeping,” says massage therapist and Reiki practitioner Jeanne Placier. “It helps the body to learn how to remember how it feels to be relaxed and to feel less tension.”

Massage therapist Kim Brenon agrees. “All types of massage help to lower blood pressure and heart rate, which in turn helps to reduce stress levels,” notes Brenon, adding that when massage helps to relieve chronic muscle pain, it allows patients to get longer uninterrupted sleep.

2. Massage helps with chronic pain and illness. When you are in pain, the last thing you may want is someone touching that area of your body, but massage can be instrumental to feeling better. “During a massage, endorphins are released, which are the body’s natural painkillers,” says Brenon. “Deep tissue massage concentrates on the deeper layers of muscle helping to relieve chronic pain.”

“With a deep tissue massage, a therapist may be use their elbows and massage tools to truly work into the muscle and focus on the areas that may have ‘knots,’” explains Placier. “Also, in shiatsu massage, therapists use their fingers and palms to apply pressure along the meridians of the body. This helps release illness and stagnation and allow the body’s energy (qi) to flow.”

However, perhaps the most healing element of massage is a simple one, Placier adds. “Massage is human touch. Many people do not have that connection, human to human,” she explains. “Especially for the elderly and people suffering with disease, massage allows one to feel cared for and comforted.”

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3. Release toxins and regain a healthy balance with massage. From poor eating habits to working those 16-hour days, we tend to abuse our bodies without even realizing the damage we are causing. To fix your health missteps, forget that juice fast, and get a massage, which helps get your body back on track and aligned for maximum health. “Massage benefits overall wellness and relaxation, but it also aides in eliminating stagnate toxins in the body,” says Placier. “Lymphatic drainage massage, which is a gentle massage to aide in draining the lymph nodes, removes toxins from the body and encourages tissue rejuvenation. It is very beneficial when done prior to surgery to aide in reducing pain, swelling, and bruising.”

Placier also recommends Reiki massage to help patients promote optimum health . “Reiki is a Japanese word that means ‘universal life energy,’” says Placier. “This type of massage is when the hands of the practitioner are either held above or gently on the receiver, and the energy created during this time ‘turns on’ the body’s natural ability to heal itself. It travels deep into the person, where the illness or stagnate energy resides, and helps to clear the blockages and returns the body to balance.”

4. Massage helps your headaches. You may think massages are just for sore back muscles and body aches, but they also relieve a headache. “Massage causes the body’s parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, otherwise known as the rest and relaxation mode,” explains Brenon. This, in turn, can make way for pain relief: “Trigger points in the neck and shoulders refer pain to the head,” she says. “So, massaging those trigger points can help to relieve headaches.”

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5. It’s never too late to learn the benefits of massage therapy. “There are so many types of massage out there now, and it can get confusing as to what to ask for or where to go,” says Placier. “Unless you clearly know what you are looking for, I would advise going to a therapist by recommendation from someone you know and trust.” Placier explains that a massage therapist should listen to his or her clients’ needs and requests closely, and work with them to create their personal wellness session.

Not sure what to ask for at your first massage? “A Swedish massage is a basic overall wellness massage that relaxes the muscles and relieves tension,” says Placier. “This is a great place to start, as each session may be different, depending on what is going on, such as a new injury.”

6. Even healthy people need massage. You hit that morning Pilates class every Saturday, you go for brisk walks a few times a week, and you lift weights at home. With a healthy workout routine, you may not think you need a massage, but it can be a fantastic addition to your exercise regimen. “Massage increases circulation and pumps oxygen into the muscles, which helps the body recover from a stressful workout,” notes Brenon. “It also helps to increase your body’s flexibility.”

“Everyone has a different idea of what massage does for them, and why they go,” says Placier. “Massage helps in healing injuries and increases your range of motion.”

7. Don’t worry, be happy (thanks to massage). During a massage, you are surrounded by peace and quiet instead of the chaos that usually fills your world, so it makes sense that it would boost your happiness. But there is actual science behind this higher level of upbeat feelings. “Your body increases the amount of serotonin it produces during a massage, which helps to lift your spirits,” says Brenon. “Who doesn't want to be a little happier?”

How has massage enhanced your health and wellbeing?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at
heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/PeopleImages

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