In the May/June issue of Natural Nutmeg magazine, I wrote about embracing massage therapy as part of your self-care plan, rather than thinking of massage as a luxury. In addition to improving stress and sleep and reducing muscle knots, there are a myriad of other benefits afforded by receiving massage therapy.
Massage for Back Pain
One of the most common complaints from clients is living with low back pain, which can have a variety of causes. Prolonged sitting can cause pain or weakness in the low back and gluteal muscles. According to David Nation, MD, a board-certified vascular surgeon in Austin, TX, “Over the long term, a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to heart disease or peripheral vascular disease.” If you are working from home (as an increasing number of people have been, over the last two years), work at an office desk job, or drive for a living, it is important to take periodic breaks to stretch and walk. Of course, regular exercise will not only help strengthen the muscles that support the back, but also decrease your chances of heart disease. Likewise, therapeutic massage can not only decrease muscular pain and tension, but also increase local blood circulation.
Another cause of low back pain is scoliosis. Many people with this condition regularly seek chiropractic care, which can help with the pain. Again, these clients can also benefit from massage therapy. Scoliosis can have a variety of causes; however, in many cases, what maintains the spinal curve are hypertonic (extra tight) muscles that are pulling on the spine. On the other side of the spinal curve are much weaker muscles. Using massage cupping techniques, in due time, a scoliosis curve can actually improve.
Massage for Carpal Tunnel
Working at a computer all day can also increase the chance of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. This can be attributed to improper use of a computer mouse and occurs when the median nerve in the wrist becomes compressed and irritated, resulting in numbness and tingling in the hands. To avoid developing carpal tunnel syndrome, it is a good idea to keep your wrist flat while using a mouse. If you do develop this condition, massage therapy can help decrease symptoms by working on the surrounding muscles and decompressing the medial nerve.
Massage for Migraine
Another little-known benefit of massage therapy is relieving tension headaches and migraines and decreasing their frequency. According to a study reported by the National Institutes of Health, subjects received 30-minute massages of the cranial and neck muscles, twice a week, for four weeks, and the results were remarkable: participants experienced reduced severity and frequency of their tension headaches. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, “In a randomized, controlled trial of massage therapy as a treatment for migraine, participants either received no massage or two 30-minute traditional massages for five weeks. Before and after each session, each participant’s heart rate, anxiety level, and salivary cortisol were measured. The massage group reported a decrease in the frequency of migraine attacks compared to the control group. Heart rates, anxiety level, and salivary cortisol levels also decreased by the end of each massage session.”
Bruxism (excessive grinding of the teeth or clenching of the jaw) can also result in headaches. Many of my clients who experience bruxism have benefited from receiving massage to the muscles of the jaw, increasing blood flow and decreasing muscle tightness and thereby decreasing these types of headaches.
Massage for Immunity
Massage therapy has been proven to boost immunity as well. According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers in Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences reported that people who receive massage therapy experience measurable changes in their body’s immune response. This study is widely believed to be the first systematic study of a larger group of participants. According to Mark Rapaport, MD, chairman of the department, “People often seek out massage as part of a healthy lifestyle but there hasn’t been much physiological proof of the body’s heightened immune response following massage until now.” In the study, 29 subjects received 45 minutes of Swedish massage. Blood samples were collected before and after the massage sessions, and it was noted that the subjects experienced significant changes in lymphocytes (white blood cells that play a large role in defending the body from disease). Swedish massage not only caused a decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, but also caused a notable decrease in most cytokines produced by stimulated white blood cells. According to Dr. Rapaport, “More research is ahead of us, but it appears that a single massage may deliver a measurable benefit.”
These benefits of massage are just some of the lesser known but equally important advantages that have been documented through research—further evidence that massage should be considered a necessity for good health, rather than an indulgence in luxury.
Kristina Mozzicato is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Board Certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork by the NCBTMB. A 2009 graduate of the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy, she is also certified in Cupping and ACE MediCupping™. Kristina is the owner of Abundant Health Massage Therapy & Wellness in Farmington, CT and was named a Natural Nutmeg Magazine 10Best Award recipient in the category of Massage and Bodywork.
For more information and convenient online booking, please visit: www.abundanthealthct.com.