When it comes to relaxation, there are a few things we can associate with that: spa days, cozying up by the fire, staying in bed all morning, and, of course, getting a massage. And although massage is great for helping you relax, it has more therapeutic benefits, too.
The term “massage” itself actually encompasses a wide array of different types of massage, ranging from Swedish massage (the most common type) to massages that have a more targeted and specific purpose, like a deep tissue massage.
So if you’re thinking about booking with us, here are six of the therapy’s biggest benefits to know about.
If you suffer from anxiety, some suggest that a massage can actually help significantly reduce your symptoms. What we think is going on is it’s decreasing the sympathetic tone that we see with people with generalized anxiety disorder and increasing this sort of parasympathetic response.
Your body actually has two different nervous systems: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. Your sympathetic is fight or flight. If you’re getting chased by a lion, that’s your sympathetic nervous system.
During a massage, however, your parasympathetic (or calming) response is increased, which results in a decrease in anxiety.
And equally great news? Those effects of massage on decreased anxiety can actually be long-lasting.
Sleep more soundly
Have trouble sleeping or suffer from insomnia? Massage can actually help you sleep more deeply. Sleep is all related to how much activity there is in the nervous system. And when you get a massage, your nervous system itself actually slows down due to the pressure.
Plus, when you’re getting deeper, more restorative sleep, she says, that in turn reduces your levels of substance P (a neurotransmitter for pain), which reduces overall pain. So if you have any aches, massage will do double-duty.
We’ve all been there: You’ve been tossing and turning all night, work has been completely draining, and you feel like you don’t even have five minutes to take a deep breath. Some people get fatigued because they’re not sleeping enough, other people are getting fatigued because of some biological factors.
But no matter what the cause of your fatigue is, one easy solution is (you guessed it) a massage.
Aid certain health conditions
Your body has two different immune responses: Th1 and Th2, and they need to be in balance in order to have your immune system working optimally, says Field. If the Th2 gets in excess of the Th1 system, then you have autoimmune problems, but during massage, you’re slowing down stress hormones to help maintain this balance, she says. In turn, this can help make autoimmune conditions like asthma, type 1 diabetes, or dermatitis, more manageable through things like decreased pain or fatigue.
Have trouble staying present in a meeting for more than 10 minutes or reading a book before bed? The effects of a massage will actually help improve your attention and ability to focus.
That’s because, in order for you to best pay attention, your heart rate needs to be lowered. If you are not paying attention, it’s usually because your heart rate’s elevated and when you get your heart rate down, you’ll be more attentive.
Because a massage slows your nervous system, your heart rate is effectively slowed down, too. During a massage, your pressure receptors stimulate vagal activity, which stems from a nerve in your brain that leads to several different branches of the body, including the heart, says Field. So when you’re undergoing the pressure of a massage, it could decrease your heart rate, as well, which ultimately will improve your focus.
If you experience an injury or joint pain (especially if the problem is long-term or chronic), you’ll also have what are called soft-tissue restrictions, which cause knots or trigger points of pain. Massage therapists are getting rid of soft-tissue restrictions and increasing circulation.
Those restrictions can, over time, lead to problems like joint decay or other ligament problems, so by actively massaging out those soft-tissue restrictions, you’re not only helping your current injury but also helping prevent other problems down the road. But the important thing when getting a massage for your injury is going to an experienced, licensed massage therapist who has extensive experience with injured patients.
A good, licensed massage therapist will be able to assess which areas around the injury need a massage, and which areas are best to avoid.
Are there any massage risks?
Although there aren’t any proven risks of massage, if you have a medical history involving things like cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes, these are things you should make your massage therapist aware of and go to a therapist who has experience with that particular problem.
Pregnant women should also seek out a therapist with pregnancy experience – For pregnant females, you have to be careful with positioning.
People with osteoporosis should find a therapist with experience in that, as well. You can easily potentially break bones or ribs if a person is really, really osteoporotic.