Many people consider getting a massage an occasional luxury or an indulgence they treat themselves to once or twice a year, but making regular massage a part of your routine has many benefits. The Mayo Clinic, the World Health Organization and many other health and wellness organizations now recognize the many ways in which massage can contribute to overall health and wellbeing and suggest that getting a massage at least twice a month may improve an individual’s health in several ways.
It’s long been known that massage can relieve stress, but are you aware that massage reduces stress in several ways? It not only soothes away stress by loosening those tight muscles, it also reduces fatigue and improves your sleep quality. Improved sleep leads to less stress and more energy, helping you cope with life’s daily ups and downs more efficiently. If you make therapeutic massage part of your routine, you’ll be starting a cycle that will nurture a less stressful, more relaxed lifestyle.
Your body’s lymphatic system flushes toxins out of your body, and massage stimulates the lymph system so that it performs more effectively, carrying away any toxins that are built up in muscles and other tissues. Massage also improves blood circulation for more efficient heating and cooling of the body and better oxygen exchange.
Therapeutic massage is one of the most effective forms of non-pharmaceutical pain relief for sore, tired, and tense muscles. It can get rid of those painful knots that lead to intense pain in the neck and shoulders as well as painful cramping in overworked muscles. With regular sessions, massage therapy can also improve range of motion and minimize swelling in sprains and strains.
There are a variety of ways massage seems to work to reduce pain. First, it triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced by the body, reducing the intensity of pain. Recent studies have also shown that massage reduces the levels of substance P, a brain chemical related to pain, in patients suffering from chronic pain. What’s even more impressive is that patients with debilitating pain syndromes such as Fibromyalgia often see results simply by having therapeutic massage twice a month.
We overwork, overeat, worry too much, and don’t get enough rest. It’s life in the fast lane all the time, and our bodies suffer, producing a stress hormone called cortisol that has been linked to everything from weight gain to a compromised immune response. Massage reduces cortisol levels dramatically, strengthening our immune systems so that we are better able to fight off illness and recover more quickly when we do become sick. Lower cortisol levels also mean we metabolize food, particularly sugars, more efficiently.
The most ephemeral benefit of massage may be the most important one. It simple feels good to relax and let someone nurture our bodies and souls through the gentle but firm sensation of touch. There is something primitive and pure about the feeling of skin against skin that calls to something deep in the core of each of us. We long to be held, to be touched, to be cared for—and massage, for an hour out of our hectic lives, lets us give over our bodies and minds to someone else to be cared for completely.