Pampering with a Purpose
The power of human touch has long been recognized as an imperative contribution to our sense of well being. From ancient societies to the modern “Digital Age,” touch (or lack thereof) remains a crucial facet of interpersonal communication.
Greek Mythology’s King Midas wished to Dionyssus for everything he touched to turn to gold, only to find his beloved daughter turned into a golden statue upon embrace. Bible parables present Jesus touching countless men, women, and children to rid their bodies of demons and incurable ailments. People from all walks of life carry crystals in their pocket for healing power, tourists rub the horns of Wall Street’s Charging Bull for good luck, and there is an entire “love language” dedicated to physical touch.
While the general wellness benefits of human touch are plenty, there is ample research available for consumption that outlines the scientific and medicinal benefits of human touch, as well. In fact, massage therapy has gradually returned to its original, intended purpose as established in 2700 BC: as a form of integrative medicine.
A New Age of Integrative Medicine
Insulin injections for diabetes, benzodiazepines for anxiety, antihistamines for allergies, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis or joint pain are all modern medicinal treatments for common health ailments. Modern medicine is, in fact, modern and has only existed for a brief period of time compared to what we now deem “alternative medicine.”
But, the tides are turning. Doctors are thoughtfully expanding their prescriptions to include alternative forms of medicine (including massage therapy) in addition to medical treatments, creating a term we now call integrative medicine.
The American Massage Therapy Association’s (AMTA) 24th annual survey asked respondents to share their experience discussing massage therapy with their medical doctors. The results revealed that 25% of respondents were referred to a massage therapist by their primary doctor and 24% of respondents were strongly encouraged to receive a massage as a form of additional treatment.
Massage therapy is a particularly effective form of integrative medicine that can be used to improve a handful of physical and mental ailments. Let’s explore just how beneficial massage therapy is for your overall health.
How Does Massage Therapy Help with General Wellness?
Massage therapy has a myriad of benefits for your overall health and wellness, which include:
- Relieves stress and improves anxiety
- Decreases stress and nausea in cancer patients
- Eases depression symptoms
- Helps with postoperative pain
- Helps to manage lower back pain
- Helps to manage neck and shoulder pain
- Helps to manage pain from osteoporosis
- Improves exercise performance
- Improves balance in adults
- Increases range of motion
- Relieves headaches and decreases frequency of migraines
- Improves heart health
- Helps to lower blood pressure
- Helps to improve sleep
That’s quite an extensive list, isn’t it? For brevity’s sake, we will only focus on 4 main benefits of massage therapy: stress relief, improve lower back pain, enhance exercise performance, and improve sleep.
Take a deep breath, diffuse your favorite essential oil, and let’s chat massage therapy.
Massage Therapy Benefit #1: Relieves Stress
The relaxing music, the calming aromatherapy, the dim lights… It’s no wonder why massage therapy is an effective treatment for anxiety management and stress relief. The effects of massage therapy on stress-related conditions is more than just skin deep, however.
Various studies have shown that massage therapy can positively affect the body on a biological level. Trigger point therapy, for instance, has been linked to decreased heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, just 10-15 minutes in a massage chair can decrease salivary cortisol levels and blood pressure.
Taking it a step further, a study conducted by the Institute of Endocrinology observed 70 women specifically diagnosed with anxiety and depression. After a month of spa treatments, participants in the study exhibited altered stress-related hormones and other biochemical markers.
Massage Therapy Benefit #2: Helps to Manage Lower Back Pain
Back pain is a common issue affecting a large number of Americans. In fact, back pain is the second most common neurological condition according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Lower back pain bites. Whether your pain is temporary (acute) or chronic, massage therapy is a hopeful treatment method. A 2016 study evaluated the results of 20 different case studies in which massage therapy was compared to other treatment methods for lower back pain. The results showed that massage therapy was helpful for chronic lower back pain maintenance. Regarding the type of massage therapy most helpful for lower back pain, ongoing research is still in pursuit of a strong answer.
Massage Therapy Benefit #3: Enhances Exercise Performance
It is widely understood that exercise is an important contributor to a healthy lifestyle. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week to reap substantial health benefits. What are these health benefits, you may ask? According to a few studies mentioned by Harvard Health Publishing, these include: a reduced rate of heart disease, cancer, and premature death.
Whether you are a seasoned athlete or a fashionable walker, injuries do happen and regular exercise and moderate activity can take a toll on your body. This is where massage therapy enters the scene. Massage therapy for sports injuries and exercise performance can benefit the recipient in the following ways:
- Soothe sore muscles
- Increase local circulation
- Loosen muscle spasms
- Reduce inflammatory response
- Facilitate muscle relaxation
- Increase blood circulation
The overwhelming consensus is that massage therapy is an effective treatment method for recovery after exercise, whether you walk, run, bike, swim, or climb mountains.
Massage Therapy Benefit #4: Helps to Improve Sleep
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one third of American adults do not get adequate sleep. Inadequate sleep leads to a handful of chronic conditions and diseases including: depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Primary insomnia can be acute or chronic and has no particular cause. Secondary insomnia is caused by a specific condition. Massage therapy is proven to be an effective treatment for insomnia related to menopause, congestive heart failure, and cancer.
In a 1 month clinical trial, 57 women with breast cancer were placed into a control group or an experimental group; the control group was treated with solely medical therapy while the experimental group was treated with a medical-massage therapy hybrid. The results of the study revealed significant improvement in quality of sleep with the medical-massage therapy group while there remained no change to the controlled group. The researchers claimed that massage therapy in conjunction with medical treatment helps to promote overall health and improve sleep quality in cancer patients.
A Career in Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is much more than just a form of self-care, a way to pamper yourself, or escape the busy world for 60 minutes. Massage therapy is healing; it is a form of integrative medicine that, as we have observed through the countless scientific studies mentioned in this article, can actually affect human biology.
As a massage therapist, you have the unique opportunity to heal the body, calm the mind, and provide sustaining soul food for your clients. You get to unify a thorough understanding of the human body with your natural ability to calm others with a carefully curated environment and a listening ear. You are a therapist and a healer. You are a massage therapist.
You, too, can become a massage therapist with our hands-on massage therapy program at Avenue Five Institute in Austin, Texas. Our program provides a solid foundation from which to build your massage therapy practice including a deep dive into the following topics: anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, Swedish massage techniques, pregnancy massage, deep tissue techniques, aromatherapy, and much more.
Get started now, pursue your passion, and change the world one massage at a time.