It increases vitality, reduces congestion, and improves circulation. It increases oxygen and nutrients supplied to muscles, joints, organs and the brain. It reduces pain due to spasm, inflammation and tissue damage. It calms the nerves and stimulates elimination of metabolic wastes, often speeding recovery from illness and injuries. What is it? MASSAGE!
Anyone who has instinctively rubbed a stiff neck knows intuitively that massage relieves pain and muscle tension. But the benefits don’t stop there. Scientists are now finding that massage can reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system, dampen harmful stress hormones and raise mood-elevating brain chemicals such as serotonin. And you can’t beat massage for relaxation and stress release.
Massage is as essential as proper diet and exercise to help maintain overall health. Many of the benefits stem directly from physical manipulation. Massage can also stimulate nerves that carry signals from the skin and muscles to the brain, triggering changes throughout the body. Even brain waves are altered by massage.
A study at the University of Miami School of Medicine showed that workers who were rubbed down for 15 minutes twice a week had lower levels of alpha and beta waves-indicating greater alertness-than their colleagues who did relaxation exercises for the same amount of time. The massage recipients completed cognitive tasks quicker and with fewer errors.
The benefits of massage have prompted employers to get involved. A special portable massage chair enables a visiting therapist to give deserving employees a thorough upper body massage right at the work site. Typically, chair massages cost a dollar a minute, and the employer often shares the expense. It’s great for employee morale, and tends to enhance management’s popularity considerably, a valuable benefit in today’s competitive marketplace.
Massage is not a single discipline but a family of related arts, each offering different advantages. If you’re plagued by insomnia or simply need to relax, Swedish massage, with its long soothing stokes, may be all you need. But if you suffer from painful muscle spasms or need to rehabilitate an injured joint, “deep tissue” massage may be more helpful. The technique uses greater pressure to penetrate to deeper muscle groups. Sports massage combines all these techniques to reduce soreness, prevent injuries and treat sprains, strains and tendonitis. Regardless of the type, after a massage you should drink lots of water. This helps the body discharge toxins that you were able to release during the massage.
To make the most of a massage, close your eyes, relax and breathe freely. If you experience any discomfort, inform the therapist immediately, but keep conversation to a minimum and focus on the feeling. Become passive and limp. Let the skilled hands of an expert massage therapist do all the work; don’t help when he or she moves your body or manipulates a limb. When you notice muscle tension, release it.
There are a few medical conditions that are not compatible with massage — serious cardiac conditions and blood clots; skin disease, wounds, or tumors; cancer or tuberculosis; fever; and fractures and dislocations. For most of us, however, a good therapeutic-body massage is just what the doctor ordered. Like exercise, massage does more for you if you engage in it regularly, but even monthly treatments can help maintain general health. That’s all the excuse anyone should need to indulge.