Massage therapy improves your life

Massage therapy is quickly gaining popularity, not only because it feels good, but because it has documented health benefits as well.

by Tony Liker — 

How many people do you know who ever turn down a massage? It is hard to say “no” to something that is so good at loosening muscles, providing relaxation and reducing stress. Massage therapy is quickly gaining popularity, not only because it feels good, but because it has documented health benefits as well.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage clients visit their therapists a total of 114 million times every year, spending between $4 and $6 billion annually. No longer simply considered a luxury, many see massage as a way to improve their health and well-being. Studies show and researchers agree that massage has physical, mental and emotional benefits.

Massage offers many of the same benefits as exercise. It improves circulation and lymph flow, reduces muscle spasm, improves muscle tone, creates better posture and even improves respiration, as it improves the function of the intercostal muscles in the rib cage. Massage improves the entire body and all its systems.

Massage can improve nerve function. For example, a person with extremely tight spinal muscles may experience pressure or constriction on their nerves. Massage can calm the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our fight-or-flight reactions (stress). Massage can free up the tissue surrounding the nerves and make the person more comfortable. It creates better circulation, allowing for better nutrition and improved oxygen delivery to the tissues. This allows the body to receive more nutrients and better eliminate waste.

The number of massages that must occur before a person feels relief varies, according to an individual’s needs. Many feel almost immediate relief. But a chronic, long-term problem may take more sessions. The massage therapist works from the outside of the body toward the deeper tissues, to avoid causing more trauma.

Most people need a series of massage sessions. The number depends on their specific needs. If you are new to massage, plan on doing a couple in a row, perhaps a week apart. Then you can determine how often you might need them in the future. Some people need to visit their massage therapists once a week; others find once a month works well for them. Some find they can go six weeks between sessions.

You should not feel extreme pain or soreness after a massage, but rather feel like you would after a good exercise session. This feeling is caused by the release of lactic acid (a natural product of muscles). Massage is really passive exercise of the muscles.

Massage can make you feel like you have turned the clock back, enabling you to feel younger, more mobile, less stiff, more flexible and more functional. Most people don’t know what normal function is because, as they age, they slowly lose function. People consider stiffness or soreness to be normal, but it is not normal, or a normal part of aging. Massage can help.

Massage can be part of a healthy lifestyle, helping to keep your body functioning at its best. Getting a regular massage is something you do for yourself — it’s an important part of self-care.

 

Tony Liker, L.M.T., NCTMB, is a licensed massage therapist who has studied cranioSacral therapy, neuromuscular therapy, visceral manipulation, integrative manual therapy, Trager Movement Therapy and Biovalent Systems Manual Therapy. He is in private practice in Scottsdale, Ariz. 480.774.7218 or tonyliker1@yahoo.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 5, October/November 2006.

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