By Suzanne Kane
Aside from the fact that a good massage makes you feel better, what are some of the other benefits to this practice? As a longtime advocate for massage, I decided to delve into its not-as-well-known aspects to see what else it offers beside a well-spent hour on the table. What I discovered are the following five hidden benefits of a good massage.
- Massage loosens musclesBeing in physical therapy for a recent low back pain episode means I’m working muscles that have not seen regular activity for some time. That results in soreness that proves I’m doing things right, but it’s also a little uncomfortable.While the therapy starts with dry heat and then massage before exercise, I also find that getting a good massage at times other than during physical therapy helps loosen those tight, sore muscles.
I’ve also taught myself how to deliver a good self-massage. I also use a hand-held massager called the Thumper that helps break up knots in muscles.
- The lymphatic system gets a workout There is a type of massage known as lymphatic massage or lymphatic drainage that stimulates the lymphatic system. The benefits of such stimulation are improved metabolism, removal of bodily waste and toxins, and promotion of a healthy immune system.Some people are prescribed lymphatic massage following breast cancer or other surgeries. But this gentle form of massage, alone or in conjunction with deep tissue or Swedish massage, is also helpful for those with a sports injury, emotional problems, stress, low energy, illnesses, or an impaired immune system.During the massage, the therapist exerts gentle pressure and pumps toward the direction of the lymph nodes throughout the body. A combination of deep thumb pressure (shiatsu) and Swedish techniques help relax the body. The therapist may focus on one area requiring attention (at the request of the client) or do a whole-body workout.
- Stress and tension melt away Everyday stress is unavoidable in today’s fast-paced world. Tension headaches, tightness in your shoulders, stomachaches and assorted pains are signs of built-up stress. The confident hands of an expert massage therapist help melt all that stress and tension.This is a case where you don’t need to do anything other than relax and feel your body ease a sigh of relief. As you breathe in and out, visualize the stress and tension escaping, like a dark cloud being chased by the wind. The warmth you feel is like the sun bringing life and energy to every part of your body.
- Circulation improves
For people with impaired vascular function or limited mobility, research has shown that regular massage may offer significant benefits, especially in improved circulation. A study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that massage helped improve vascular function in people who had not exercised. Researchers said this suggested the benefits of massage for circulatory function for anyone regardless of level of physical activity. Those with physical injury who underwent massage showed improved blood flow and vascular function was changed at a distance from the site of the injury and the massage.When you’re on the table, you can almost feel your circulation changing. At least, I can. This can’t be just my imagination. My massage therapist says my overall skin color – a nice pink – is evidence of the improved circulation. No wonder I feel good afterward.
- Massage contributes to healing, especially after surgery
One of massage’s biggest benefits, in my opinion, is how it aids in healing the body post-surgery. Having had several operations for carpal tunnel syndrome, a reconstructed leg, cyst and tumor removal, and so on, I can attest to the relief from pain that strategic therapeutic massage delivers.When you alleviate pain, your body is better able to heal. There’s less focus and concentration on what hurts, and the body does what it does best: function properly. This means all-systems-go for jumpstarting healing. Yet it doesn’t only apply to those who’ve had surgery. Any painful injury or overworked muscles can be helped through massage. Just be sure the massage therapist knows where it hurts and tell him or her how much pressure to use. The idea isn’t to feel pain, but to allow the therapist to take you just up to that point while breathing in and out deeply. Releasing tense muscles, easing the stiffness, and helping alleviate pain are the end results of a good massage that are worth any temporary discomfort.