We’ve all been there, waking up to a crick in the neck, picking up a child or simply weathering everyday wear and tear on our bodies. Any one of these and other activities can cause pain, sending sufferers running for the nearest massage therapist.
Massage therapy is hardly new. Early written records date back to more than 2000 years B.C.E. But it has evolved over time as experts have come to understand its benefits stretch far beyond sore muscles.
Owner of The Art of Massage, Erin Needham cites massage as helping to improve sleep, focus and concentration as well as increase range of motion, mobility and endorphins, which helps to alleviate depression and stress. “In my practice I've been fortunate enough to see how beneficial massage can be, through clients who have experienced relief for a variety of issues you might not expect,” says Needham, who is also an expert in essential oils and other therapies that go hand-in-hand with massage therapy. “Needham says massage also increases blood and Lymph circulation which speeds elimination of metabolic waste and strengthens the immune system. In addition to helping to heal acute ailments, regular massage improves prolonged muscle tone and skin tone and can even lower blood pressure.
Beyond traditional therapies, there is a connection outside the physical realm that works toward restorative outcomes. Massage aficionados report massage therapy as being whole-body curative, helping with more than just aches and pains. “Massage therapy gives our body, mind and spirit the opportunity and the space to heal ourselves,” says Erin, a practitioner who prescribes different massages for various complaints, whether they be long-term chronic disorders or injuries.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), in older adults, it can help improve balance and even temper the effects of dementia. The AMTA also reports that massage has been known to decrease stress in cancer patients and for hospice patients, massage can help improve the quality of life in those final days. “For our clients that have trouble with insomnia or need stress relief, I recommend they have a relaxing Swedish massage,” Erin says. “For clients with muscular stiffness and issues with range of motion and mobility, we offer deep tissue and ashiatsu barefoot massage, a luxurious deep tissue massage performed with the feet as well as hot stones.”
The Mayo Clinic defines Swedish massage as the most gentle, with long strokes, kneading and deep circular movements. Its cousin, sports massage, addresses active injuries and preventative care. While deep tissue massage targets deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, trigger point massage is a concentrated focus to loosen and relax muscle fibers due to injury or extended use.
Medical doctors are getting wise to the benefits of massage as part of an effective treatment plan. Physicians are increasingly recommending massage it as part of whole health wellness to help treat everything from anxiety to digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome and temporomandibular joint pain, among other infirmities. The AMTA also reports massage can deliver relief from postoperative, osteoarthritis and migraine pain and even rheumatoid arthritis.
Many chiropractors now offer in-office massage therapy in conjunction with adjustments and as a stand-alone service, sometimes covered by insurance. Here is where patients sometimes find dual-qualified physical therapists who specialize in massage. For chronic pain sufferers, these practitioners are like angels, offering alternatives to drug and other pain regimens that come with unpleasant and side effects.
Before you book a massage appointment, check to see if the massage therapist is licensed, certified or registered. Don’t be afraid to ask about training, experience and what type of massage is their specialty. Check for references and search for online reviews. AMTA offers a section on their website that enables visitors to search by location and technique.