In some of the old movies made on gangsters and small time godfathers, I used to notice one henchman applying massage to the back of his ‘boss’.
I used to wonder, as no doubt you also do, whether it was a luxury that the boss was enjoying purely by the virtue of his job!
But, when I was researching on this topic those images suddenly flashed across my mind. Though I have no sympathy for the nature of work the ‘boss’ was executing, I can surely imagine that the guy must be suffering from job stress. And his henchman, the poor dirty fellow, had been ordered to massage the stress away!
Pain - Stress gets reflected in the form of firmness and stiffness in muscles – also known as tone. This tension restricts the supply of oxygen, leading to accumulation of lactic acid and waste products in these muscles. After prolonged periods of stress, this results in soreness and pains in muscles.
Chronic Fatigue - Prolonged periods of tension weaken the muscles. When one muscle gets weakened, its opposing muscle is also compromised; slowly it also gives in.
It results in lack of coordination between various body parts – muscles, connecting tendons, joints, etc. Since musculoskeletal system consumes largest share of body’s energy, this imbalance brings about a state of chronic fatigue and tiredness.
Have you ever noticed how a person develops a slump after long periods of tension and stress?
Massage improves blood circulation - With massage, stress is relieved through the manipulation of body’s soft tissues. The massage therapist uses his fingers, fists and feet to apply long, smooth strokes and kneading movements to improve blood circulation in the muscles. It brings in fresh nutrients, releases accumulated toxics and strengthens muscles.
Relieves tension - Expert massage therapist recognizes differences in firmness and tightness at different places of the muscles and adjusts pressure accordingly to loosen the tension spots. Massage relaxes and revives the muscles gone flaccid due to tension. It smoothens and loosens the spots gone stiff due to stress.
Increases oxygen flow - Massage helps in purging the body of toxics accumulated due to long periods of stress and tension. It causes more oxygen to flow in the body, which helps the body to revive and re-build itself.
Boosts Immune system – With massage, stress is seeped away; there is a flow of fresh oxygen and nutrients to the entire system: it strengthens the immune system of the body making it capable of reviving itself.
Clears the mind – Increased tension makes you incapable of thinking clearly. After a soothing and revivifying session of massage, delivered in tranquil surroundings - the soft lights, soothing music, pleasant aromas of massage oils; the massage, delivered at the hands of an expert masseur, clears your mind of exaggerated anxiety and makes you capable of thinking with an unclouded mind. When you are bodily and mentally relaxed, you are capable of taking a more balanced and fresh perspective of your life situation.
After a massage session, you feel rejuvenated and more confident. The massage brings about an emotional release and improved balance in body, mind and emotions.
Commonly, with massage, stress can be controlled effectively. It is not going to dissolve away all those things that are causing you tension and stress in the first place, but it surely is going to help in making you mentally and physically more capable of taking life head-on!
We all know that certain types of constant stress in our lives are not healthy. But did you know that recent evidence indicates the physical changes associated with stress may contribute to the leading causes of death-heart disease and cancer? In addition, stress can create and/or exacerbate many physical and emotional conditions such as chronic fatigue, digestive upset, headaches, back pain, high blood pressure and risk of stroke.
A recent study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recruited 53 healthy adults and assigned them to receive deep tissue, Swedish and light touch massage. The researchers found that a single session of massage caused biological changes.
Volunteers showed significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also had increases in white blood cells that are part of the immune system. What this study shows is that receiving massage actually activates the body on an internal level to respond and correct the physiological imbalance caused by our stressful lives. By fighting stress on a number of fronts, the benefits of massage for stress relief include relaxation of muscles, an increase in circulation and a reduction in stress related pain. Once your stress level is reduced, you can reclaim the energy you once enjoyed, and experience a refreshed body and mind.
Promote Deeper and Easier Breathing
One of the telltale signs of anxiety and stress can be constricted breathing. When the body starts to take shallow short breaths instead of breathing at a natural pace, it is near impossible for one to reach a relaxed state. Part of the problem is that the muscles around the rib cage and abdomen may have tightened, constricting air.
Massage plays an important role in training the body how to relax and help improve breathing. Respiratory issues, such as allergies, sinus problems, asthma and bronchitis, are one group of conditions that can benefit from massage therapy. In fact, the positive impact massage can have on respiratory function has been shown through research, says Anne Williams, education program director at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.
Many muscles in the front and back of the upper body are accessory respiratory muscles, she explains. "When any of these muscles are chronically tight and shortened, they can restrict normal breathing and disrupt breathing patterns," she explains. "Massage techniques to lengthen and relax these muscles improve breathing capacity and function."
Massage therapy can not only improve breathing, but also posture. This can lead to an opening of the chest area, as well as the structural alignment and rib cage expansion needed for optimal lung function, she adds. Plus, when the parasympathetic nervous system responds to massage your breathing rate slows and becomes deep and regular.
A particularly beneficial way of relieving respiratory issues through massage therapy is tapotement, a rhythmic, percussive stroke used in Swedish massage. When performed on the back, along with vibration and shaking, tapotement can loosen mucus in the lungs and increase airway clearance for better lung function, Williams says.
Not only will massage therapy help relax internal muscles, it can also help individuals become aware of their daily stress levels. Once the body recognizes what true relaxation feels like, the mind can then easily recreate it before stress becomes chronic and damaging. This can also help you enjoy a more balanced life.
Benefits of Improving Breathing
- Controls breathing in an effort to aid relaxation
- Allows the mind to re-create relaxation before stress becomes chronic or damaging
- Increases energy level
Massage Therapy Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure has more misconceptions than nearly any other medical condition. Here are some common misconceptions according to the American Heart Association:
One effective way to stave off high blood pressure naturally is massage therapy. Long-term studies have shown that a consistent massage program can decrease diastolic and systolic blood pressure; decrease salivary and urinary cortisol stress-hormone levels; and lower sources for depression, anxiety and hostility.
If you or someone you know is looking for natural ways to help lower blood pressure, please visit our Specials & Programs membership page to Learn More.
Benefits of Lower Blood Pressure
- Lower depression, anxiety, and hostility
- Keeps stress hormone levels under control
- Low blood pressure can contribute to lowering the odds of having a heart attack, kidney failure, or a stroke
Massage Therapy Manages Pain of Chronic Conditions
People with chronic pain often turn to massage therapy to help naturally improve their quality of life. Notes Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida:
"Most people go to massage therapists to reduce pain. There's a release of serotonin, which is the body's natural production of anti-pain chemicals. Additionally, an aggravating factor in pain syndromes can be a lack of deep, restorative sleep. Massage is very effective at increasing deep sleep. With more deep sleep, you have less pain."
Fibromyalgia and arthritis are two chronic pain syndromes that can be positively impacted by massage therapy. In a study of massage therapy for knee osteoarthritis, a group receiving massage therapy for the pain showed significant improvement in pain, stiffness and physical function. They increased their range of motion and reduced the time it took them to walk 50 feet.
In another study, conducted by the Touch Research Institute and funded by Massage Envy, people with arthritis in their wrist and hand reported less pain and greater grip strength after massage therapy. They also had lower anxiety and depressed mood scores.
For people looking to naturally manage their chronic pain, massage therapy can improve quality of life by impacting mood as well as manage the pain. When you live with chronic pain, having a toolbox of strategies you turn to for pain relief is important. Massage can be a powerful tool for relaxing both mind and body.
Benefits of Managing Chronic Pain
- Increases serotonin, which reduces pain naturally
- Naturally increases deep sleep
- Increases range of motion
- Lowers anxiety and improves mood
Massage Therapy Relieves Tension Headaches
In the United States alone, more than 60% of the 45 million Americans who suffer from chronic headaches suffer from migraines. The disorder can be debilitating and typically results from high stress levels and/or lack of sleep. So it's no wonder why so many people want to know how to relieve tension headaches.
Massage has two roles when it comes to treating migraines and tension related headaches:
In a proactive role, massage treatments are performed on a regular basis to help the body maintain an optimal level of relaxation and stress-relief. This approach reduces the chances of migraine attacks and tension headaches significantly by relaxing muscle spasms and trigger points.
In a comfort role, massage is done to ease the pressure brought on during a migraine or tension related headache. By focusing on the neck, shoulders, and head, massage can decrease the pain and discomfort brought on by migraine or tension headaches.
A recent study showed that massage therapy recipients exhibited fewer migraines and better sleep quality during the weeks they received massage, and the three weeks following, than did participants that did not receive massage therapy. Another study found that in adults with migraine headaches, massage therapy decreased the occurrence of headaches, sleep disturbances and distress symptoms. It also increased serotonin levels, believed to play an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep and appetite.
Benefits of Relieving Tension-Related Headaches
- Decreases occurrences of tension headaches, sleep disturbances and distress symptoms
- Allows one to maintain a level of relaxation and stress-relief, reducing the chances of stress induced migraines
- Massage for headaches can also reduce muscle spasms and trigger points
Massage Therapy Improves Blood Circulation
The long-term effects of massage therapy are more than skin deep. Better blood circulation is part of the chain reaction that occurs in the body as a result of receiving massage therapy on a regular basis.
A person with poor circulation can suffer from a variety of discomforts including pooling of the fluid in the extremities (like the toes), cold hands and feet, fatigue and achiness created by an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles. Good circulation brings damaged, tense muscles the oxygen rich blood they need to heal.
Massage facilitates circulation because the pressure created by the massage technique actually moves blood through the congested areas. The release of this same pressure causes new blood to flow in. The squeezing and pulling also flushes lactic acid from the muscles and improves the circulation of the lymph fluid which carries metabolic waste away from muscles and internal organs, resulting in lower blood pressure and improved body function.
Improved blood circulation is just one more benefit of massage therapy. Combined with a balanced diet and regular exercise, massage can be a powerful, natural ally for a healthier lifestyle.
Benefits of Improved Circulation
- Enhances blood flow
- Naturally lowers blood pressure
- Improves body function