Anyone who has had a massage will agree that it was relaxing and they felt better than when they arrived. So why not have one on a regular basis? It may simply look like a lot of pressing and kneading on skin, but massage is actually a scientific process. The reason you feel different after a massage is because it is healing and invigorating tired, aching or injured muscles. Massage could aid recovery, prevent and eliminate injuries, reduce stress and even enhance metabolism and circulation. Many look at massages as a luxury item, but it should be considered as part of a wellness plan.
Here are just a few of the benefits of getting regular massages:
- Massage Reduces Stress. Stress is a common trigger of many illnesses and diseases, so it’s important to find ways to reduce our stress levels. Getting regular massages is a great stress reliever. Massage therapy reduces cortisol levels, and increases levels of serotonin and dopamine (also known as the “happy hormones”). Not only that, but getting a massage takes you out of the chaos of your day-to-day life and forces you to relax and take some time for yourself.
- Massage Enhances Immunity. Studies have shown that massage actually increases white blood cell count. Massage also increases blood and lymph circulation, which is very important for overall immune system health. The lymphatic system is responsible for trapping and eliminating bacteria and toxins from our bodies.
- Massage Reduces the Effects of Long Spent Sitting. The average American spends 8-9 hours of their day sitting–between the time spent sitting at their desk and time spent behind the wheel of your car. It’s widely known that sitting in these positions causes distress in your muscles. It affects your posture, and overstretches both upper and lower back muscles, weakening them. Regular massage can help counteract some of this damage and reduce neck and back pain.
- Massage Helps You Manage Anxiety and Depression. Massage therapy can be used as part of your overall treatment plan to manage disorders like depression or anxiety. Massage is soothing, nurturing and relaxing. It can improve your state of mind if you concentrate on releasing negative thoughts during the treatment. You can incorporate visualization exercises into your massage therapy, too.
- Massage Improves Sleep. Not only can massage encourage a restful sleep, it also helps people who can’t otherwise comfortably rest. It releases tension and pain in your muscles which allows you to be more comfortable at bedtime.
Remember, your body strives to maintain optimum health by keeping all of its systems in balance. Along with proper nutrition, exercise and rest, massage relaxes tense muscles and stimulates the body’s communication lines to help it do its job — and to keep you feeling your best.
Massage is the simplest and oldest form of medical care. Professional therapeutic massage is an age-old healing art, which alleviates physical, mental and emotional ailments. It is important to know that there are different types of massages, and not every type of massage is right for every individual. Understanding the differences in each method will help you choose the most effective technique to alleviate your discomfort.
- Swedish Massage Therapy – The standard type of massage offered in most clinics, gyms, spas, and wellness centers, Swedish massage is the method that most people envision when they think of massage therapy. It focuses on improving blood flow to the skin and muscle and removing muscle tension. Swedish provides generalized relaxation, improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and enhances one’s overall state of health. Using lotion or oil, massage therapists typically begin with broad general strokes and then transition to targeting specific problem areas.
- Deep Tissue Massage – Uses slow friction and deep finger pressure on areas suffering from chronic muscle tension or areas that ache or feel contracted. This type of massage is useful for areas of hypertension, such as a stiff neck or sore shoulders. The pressure of deep tissue is generally more intense than that of a Swedish massage, but it shouldn’t have to be painful to be effective. If you’re experiencing pain, let your massage therapist know right away.
- Reflexology – The therapist uses finger pressure and techniques such as kneading and rubbing to promote relaxation and healing in the body. Reflexology is based on “reflex areas” on the hands and feet, whose energy is believed to be connected to organs and other body parts. By applying pressure to the reflex points, the reflexologist can balance your nervous system and stimulate endorphins, the body’s natural pleasure response, which reduces stress and discomfort. This can be a deeply relaxing therapy, especially if you stand all day or have tired, achy feet. You remove your shoes and socks but otherwise remain clothed.
- Hot Stone Massage – Hot stone massage uses warm stones placed on specific points on the body and the therapist can also hold the warm stones while giving the massage. The stones are usually basalt (a volcanic rock that retains heat well). The warmth of the stones can be relaxing and can loosen tight muscles so that the therapist can reach areas of muscle tension quickly. If you have certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, it is advised to refrain from this type of massage.
- Aromatherapy Massage – An aromatherapy massage is a Swedish massage with essential oils added to the massage oil. Although oils may be selected to address specific needs, the therapist typically uses pre-blended oils to relax, energize, or uplift. The soothing effects of aromatherapy massage can benefit a variety of conditions, including headaches, insomnia, certain digestive disorders, and even premenstrual symptoms. Before receiving an aromatherapy massage, make sure you’re not allergic to any of the plants used in the oils, since they may cause a reaction on the skin.
When you are looking for massage therapy, be sure to check which type of massage methods a practitioner can provide. You want a method that addresses your reason for getting massage. Understanding the different types of massage can help you find the right fit for your needs.
Adrenal fatigue is a commonly experienced syndrome in today’s world of stress and high energy. The adrenal glands are located near your kidneys, and their job is to make the main hormones that control our response to stress: cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (adrenaline). If your cortisol level is either too low or too high, it sends messages throughout the body which affect your digestion, immune system, nervous system, and all your other hormones.
A little stress is completely normal, and good for us–this is something everyone has. The important thing is your body’s ability to recover from stress. If you’re not sleeping or eating well and continue in stress mode for years, you’re headed for overall burnout because your body doesn’t have the chance to recuperate from the damage caused by the stress. If we don’t give the adrenal glands a chance to rest and recover by giving them a break from the stressful situations that stimulate them, we are highly likely to start feeling not so well. Symptoms of over-worked adrenal glands include everything from fatigue and low energy, to insomnia, dizziness, blood sugar irregularities, muscle weakness, frequent infections, and mood changes.
So what can be done to restore the delicate balance provided by healthy adrenal glands? Be kind to yourself. This might seem simple, but is very hard for most people. Lighten the expectations that you have of yourself and take time out of each day for some “me time.” While we cannot live a life completely free of potentially stressful situations, we can certainly change our capacity to cope with those challenges we do face. Massage can be an extremely helpful part of maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and in lowering your stress levels. Here are just a few ways that massage can help your adrenal system:
- Massage therapy can reduce stress hormone levels and stress related symptoms.
- Massage increases circulation, helps to relax the nervous system, improves sleep patterns, and improves your overall sense of well being.
- Massage lowers cortisol levels, and increases serotonin and dopamine – perfect for defusing that adrenally fatigued brain on high alert so that your hormones can come back to a more normal balance.
- A single massage reduces temporary anxiety that results from a stressful situation. Multiple massage treatments reduce general feelings of anxiety and depression.
Of course, massage alone won’t fix all stress issues and restore adrenal health in a single session. It’s part of a bigger picture for a more mindful lifestyle that takes care of your needs and helps support your body in the healing process. Talk to your massage therapist about why you are seeking massage therapy — this will help your therapist choose the best style and approach to your massage. Use massage therapy for relaxation, not as an alternative to medical treatment.
Hot stone massage is a specialty massage where the therapist uses smooth, heated stones as an extension of their own hands, or by placing them on the body. The heat can be both deeply relaxing and help warm up tight muscles so the therapist can work more deeply, more quickly. The stones used are typically river rocks or other very smooth-surfaced stones made of basalt. These stones are heated in sanitizing water before use. The high iron content in basalt helps the stones retain heat during the massage.
History of Hot Stone Massage
Both verbal and written history confirm the Chinese used heated stones more than 2,000 years ago as a means of improving the function of internal organs. Stones were also used for healing work in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Egypt and India.
Hot stones warmed by fire were used by Native Americans to treat aching muscles, but the modern revival of hot stones in massage is generally credited to Mary Nelson, a native of Tucson, Arizona. She trademarked her style of hot stone massage, called LaStone Therapy, which has a Native American spiritual component and requires training and certification.
Most spas offer their own versions of hot stone massage (they might call it lava stone massage, river rock massage, warm stone massage, and so on). A hot stone massage, however, takes a lot of skill and sensitivity on the part of the therapist.
Benefits of Hot Stone Massage
Hot stone massages are beneficial on both physical and psychological levels. Always check with your doctor before getting a hot stone massage.
- Muscle Relaxation. The heat from the stones helps your muscles relax, allowing the massage therapist to manipulate your deep tissues more effectively. Overly tense muscles can hinder the massage procedure, so if your muscles are extremely tight or stiff, the heated stones may provide the extra relaxation you need for the massage to be beneficial in releasing tension and easing sore muscles.
- Pain Relief. While all types of massage can help relieve pain caused by tense muscles, stiff joints or injuries, a hot stone massage may provide greater relief due to the intense nature of the massage. Because the hot stones allow the massage therapist to penetrate deeper, you may find that a hot stone massage leaves you feeling physically better than a Swedish or deep-tissue massage that does not incorporate heat. It is important to let your massage therapist know if you feel that the heat from the stones is too much or that the pressure being used is too harsh.
- Improved Circulation. Typically, a massage therapist allows the heated stones to rest on trigger points in your body before beginning the actual massage. As the heat from the stones penetrates into your deeper body tissues, your blood vessels open, resulting in improved circulation. Poor circulation can lead to fatigue, which tenses the muscles, and a buildup of fluid and lactic acid in the muscles. Increased circulation delivers more oxygen to the muscles, which can help ease aches and pains.
- Mental Benefits. Massage therapy can result in mental benefits as well as physical ones in many people. Some people find the warmth of the hot stones to be comforting and deeply relaxing. You may find that the relaxation afforded to you through a hot stone massage helps ease some of your mental stress and tension. A hot stone massage may also help you combat some of the symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression. While massage therapy is not a substitute for traditional medical or psychiatric care, it can be an integral part of your treatment plan.
Whether you’re trying massage for the first time or are already a fan and interested in trying something new, talk with your massage therapist about whether hot stone massage is appropriate. While many people find the warmth deeply relaxing and beneficial for the mind, body, and spirit, you also want to make sure that it is the right type of bodywork for you. Always check with your doctor before getting a hot stone massage; individuals with certain conditions are advised to avoid this type of therapy. This includes those with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are on medication that thins your blood. It is also not recommended if you are pregnant or have a sunburn.
A massage or facial session allows us a break from the stress of our everyday life and you will leave feeling relaxed, refreshed, and peaceful. But did you know there are things you can do before, during, and after the massage to get the maximum benefit from the massage session?
There are a few things that you can do before a massage or facial that will allow your body to fully relax and make the experience even more relaxing.
- Have a shower before leaving for the massage. This will make you feel fresh and your body is more receptive to the oils used during the massage.
- Do some light stretches or light warm up exercise. The activity will warm up your body and increase your metabolism, which will in turn make your muscles more flexible and allow your massage therapist to do deeper work if needed.
- Avoid having caffeine on the day of the massage. Caffeine can affect the body in a way that is counterproductive to massage – it can make some people nervous and jumpy and actually cause the contraction of muscles.
- Drink lots of water on the day of the massage. Water will keep you hydrated, help flush your system of toxins, and may help mitigate soreness.
Receiving a massage may seem like a passive activity, but there are things you can do during this time to ensure a great experience. Keep these tips in mind to not only be a good massage recipient but to also get the most out of your massage session.
- Communication is key. Just as an informed doctor has a better chance of helping you heal, an enlightened therapist can target trouble zones and generate solutions. Use the brief conversation with your therapist at the beginning of each session to create your own hybrid experience. The greater the insights into your individual history, the more tailored your treatment will be.
- If something is not to your liking, let your therapist know. The therapist will check with you several times during the massage to verify the pressure feels just right. But, if at any time you would like more vigorous action or less intense effort, don’t be afraid to speak up. Because everyone has a different tolerance to touch, therapists depend on their client’s instructions and reactions to determine the depth of pressure to apply.
- Cold muscles are tense muscles. Since body temperature can fluctuate throughout the massage, don’t hesitate to say something if you need more or less coverage. Tell the therapist if the room needs to be warmer.
- Stop thinking, start being. When you’re getting a massage, don’t think about what you should have done or plan to do. A massage is time to be here now.
- Keep breathing. While receiving a massage, focus your mind as fully as possible on your breathing to bring your awareness back to your body.
Just as it is important to prepare for your massage it is just as important to follow a few easy tips once the massage is complete. The benefits from a massage may not last as long unless you follow these tips.
- Drink water. One bit of advice you’ll hear over and over again is to drink plenty of water after a massage. A massage releases toxins, such as lactic acid and carbonic acid, which need to be flushed from the body. Post massage hydration helps to eliminate released impurities.
- Do some stretches. Stretching between massages to maintain joint mobility, prevent muscles from tightening up again, and keeping the life energy flowing is a great way to extend the benefits received from a massage. This may mean doing yoga or whatever specific or full-body stretches suggested by your massage therapist.
- Adjust your diet. Since you’ve just rid the body of toxins, support the body’s renewed state by adhering to a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which will continue the detoxification process. Keep away from caffeinated drinks and enjoy the calm brought by a good massage.
The benefits of massage are many, including: increasing circulation, allowing the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body; stimulating lymph flow and boosting immunity; and relaxing overused or tight muscles. However good all of these benefits sound, if you aren’t doing a few simple things before, during, and after your massage then you aren’t getting the most from the time spent on the massage table.
Is your day full of deadlines and expectations? What about the people, maybe smaller versions of yourself, which are depending on you to take care of their every need? In everyone’s day there are deadlines, long lines, stress, and even the unexpected that can throw another curveball into your tight schedule. In addition to allowing some “you” time, a massage is a good way to relieve stress and provide relaxation. So how do you know when it is time to schedule a message?
Feeling the funk. Relaxing and letting go for an hour can feel like a mini vacation. Add in the benefit of a massage to work and relax the numerous muscles in your body and it can feel like a glorious mini vacation. Studies have shown that getting a massage on a regular basis can boost your immune system. In addition to stimulating your immune system, a massage releases endorphins that can help combat some of the effects of depression. A review of more than a dozen massage studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine concludes that massage therapy relieves depression and anxiety by affecting the body’s biochemistry.
Pain in the neck. If you are having chronic neck, shoulder, or back pain you should seek the assistance of a medical doctor. However if you work at a computer all day, there will be times that your neck and shoulders will get tight and start to hurt. Maybe all your stress is depositing in your back muscles causing pain. Visiting a massage therapist on a regular basis can help loosen those muscles. By relieving the strain on these muscles, you can help to prevent long term damage that may need more than massage to alleviate.
Ache in the head. Do you suffer from headaches? 23 million Americans suffer from migraines and can be caused by a wide spectrum of triggers. In addition to migraine headaches, there are sinus headaches, cluster headaches, and tension headaches. IF you suspect that your headache is being caused by anything other than daily stress, please consult your doctor before seeing your massage therapist. Just like the stress in your muscles, a massage can help alleviate the stress or muscle strain that could be causing your headache.
Tummy trouble. Your bowels have so many nerves that it is often referred to as the body’s second brain. The actions and reactions of your bowels are directly affected by your mental state. The more stress you have or are feeling the more sensitive your stomach is. As with many other conditions, the less stress you feel, the less pain you feel. Massage releases the power of your body’s inner pain reliever: endorphins. When you receive massage, your autonomic nervous system is affected so pain signals are slowed or stopped. In short, massage calms things down.
Sleeplessness. Our bodies heal and recover when we sleep. So what happens when we aren’t getting enough sleep? Well… our bodies don’t heal. And the stress gets worse. When the stress gets worse, we have a harder time getting to or staying asleep. Massages help promote relaxation and a release of stress and pain. The less stress and pain the easier it is to sleep and allow the body to heal as it should.
Massages are intended to spur the body’s natural relaxation response. So how do you know when it is time to schedule a massage? When you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just in need of a little “you” time. You’re horizontal and you don’t have to do anything but enjoy an hour break from the mundane routines that propel and stress us in our overstimulated society. Scheduling regular messages can help keep these symptoms and issues at bay and from becoming too overwhelming. So relax. Let go. And go get a massage.