Using Massage to Take Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing
Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle can often come with aches, pains, stress and sleepless nights. If your busy schedule is taking a toll on your body, have you considered massage therapy?
Everyone loves a gentle, relaxing massage, but not everyone realizes that regular visits to your local massage therapist could have other unexpected health benefits. Today, massage therapy is more popular – and accessible – than ever before. It has grown to be a staple in many healthcare regimens.
Read More: The 3 Key Benefits of Massage Therapy
What is massage therapy?
Massage therapy is a regulated healthcare approach that promotes a balance between a patient’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. It’s performed by a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT), who must be registered with the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario in accordance with the Regulated Health Professionals Act and the Massage Therapy Act to legally practice in Ontario.
RMTs work with patients to design a personalized treatment plan for illness, injury, rehabilitation and disability. There are several types of massage regularly used by RMTs, depending on the patient’s needs: Deep tissue massage, sports massage, prenatal massage, scalp/facial massage and relaxation massage.
Whether you’re five years old or 65, massage therapy could be a viable option for you. RMTs can safely and effectively treat infants, children, and the elderly – in fact, many health conditions that come with age are best treated with massage therapy, such as arthritis and muscle tension.
If your condition would be better treated by a different healthcare professional, your massage therapist will be happy to make the appropriate referral. If you have any of the following conditions, we recommend speaking to your RMT before proceeding with treatment:
- Bleeding disorders (or if you are taking prescribed blood-thinners)
- Burns or open wounds
- Deep vein thrombosis
What can massage therapy do for you?
1. Reduce and Eliminate Pain
Whether you suffer from chronic pain, an acute injury or even just those pesky aches and pains of everyday life, one of the biggest benefits of massage therapy is pain relief. Massage therapy is so effective against pain because it targets the root of the issue rather than simply treating surface pain. Massage also stimulates the release of “feel-good” hormones like dopamine and serotonin, reducing the sensation of pain.
An unexpected but critical long-term benefit of massage therapy associated with pain relief is improved circulation. This happens over time and is more noticeable in patients who receive massage therapy on a regular basis. Improved circulation causes a snowball effect, removing lactic acid from your muscle tissue while allowing blood to circulate more freely to heal damaged, stiff, and tense muscles.
2. Reduce Stress/Depression/Anxiety
Experts say that alongside pain relief, reducing depression, anxiety and stress is one of the benefits that research has most consistently linked to massage.
Studies have shown that relaxation massage increases blood flow to areas of the brain and nervous system that are associated with mood and stress regulation. This causes cortisol levels to drop and alleviates other symptoms of stress, such as rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and shortness of breath.
If you suffer from panic attacks or bouts of extreme depression, regular visits to your massage therapist can even have preventative benefits.
3. Better Quality of Sleep
Not only can a relaxation massage help encourage restful sleep by eliminating sleep disturbances, but it also helps patients suffering from conditions that don’t allow you to rest comfortably. For example, it can be particularly effective for cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Massage is also beneficial for infants experiencing stress, helping them sleep more deeply and even cry less often.
4. Improve Joint Mobility
Patients suffering from chronic conditions like Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or even IBS and Chron’s Disease often experience tight, sore joints. This can severely limit your range of motion. To treat these conditions, your RMT will likely use a variety of massage types that involve moderate pressure, to avoid potentially worsening flare-ups.
5. Reduce Muscle Tension
For many people, the average workday consists of sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. For others, it requires manual labour. Either way, it’s difficult to remain conscious of your posture all day. These repetitive activities can lead to back pain and muscle tension throughout your shoulders, neck and legs.
Deep tissue massage uses slow, firm pressure strokes to reach deeper into the muscles, which can reduce muscle soreness by up to 30% and even improve your range of motion. It is also useful for pregnant women who experience extreme stress on their back, shoulders, neck, and abdominal muscles.
6. Increase Sports Performance
Even before massage therapy became a go-to for your average joe, athletes have been using it to not only treat sports-related injuries but also to improve their overall game. Depending on what sport you play, a sports massage specifically targets the group of muscles you use the most. This can help increase your blood flow, improve your range of motion and treat injuries. Sports massages are even useful for decreasing your risk of injury.
Sports massages are similar to deep tissue massage that uses Swedish technique as its main technique, with faster strokes and additional techniques like compression and pressure point therapy. If you are heavily involved in sports, your RMT may recommend that you visit as often as three times per week.
7. Break Down Muscle Knots/Adhesions
Muscle knots and adhesions can affect your circulation, causing pain, limited range of motion, and inflammation. This can either be a result of scar tissue build-up or painful bands of rigid tissue. Both can be physically broken down with a deep tissue or trigger point massage.
If you are prone to these, your RMT may recommend more frequent visits, or prescribe preventative exercises to do at home.
8. Normalize Lymphatic System
Some health conditions – like fibromyalgia and lymphedema – can cause lymph fluid to build up in your bodily tissues. This can make it difficult for your body to efficiently remove waste and toxins from your tissues.
Lymph fluid build-up causes inflammation in the affected area, most commonly the arms and legs. It’s also common with infections, and among cancer patients who have had their lymph nodes removed. A lymphatic drainage massage slowly eases the muscle around the affected area with long, gentle strokes, allowing the lymph fluid to circulate freely and ultimately reducing the pain and swelling.
Many people have preconceived notions that massage is only a feel-good way to pamper yourself. Instead, think of it as a tool to help you take charge of your health and wellbeing. Your massage therapist can even teach you helpful tricks for using massage at home, with a partner or even by yourself. Whether you are looking for ways to treat a specific health condition, or simply find some much-needed stress relief, massage therapy might be the missing puzzle piece you need.