Massage therapy has been studied for years as a way to naturally improve quality of life and address many physical conditions. There are lots of types of massage therapy, and all approaches generally work by physically manipulating muscles and tissues to induce a relaxation response. While many people love getting massages to enjoy some “me-time,” the benefits of massage therapy go beyond relaxation.
Studies have found that massage therapy can help relieve pain, improve your mood and even promote deeper, more restorative sleep. Because it’s a customizable solution, massage therapy can benefit many people with varying conditions. From back pain and arthritis to insomnia and headaches, massage therapy may be a good holistic approach to add to your healthcare routine. Here are some of the benefits of massage therapy for your health and happiness:
1. Reduce Stress
One of the most common reasons people undergo massage therapy is for stress-relief. During a massage, your body eases into a state of deep relaxation. In fact, you can become so relaxed during a massage, that it’s not uncommon to fall asleep during treatment.
Taking time to relax is critical to long-term health. Chronic stress affects your mental and emotional well-being and can even contribute to serious health problems. Not only can stress aggravate musculoskeletal conditions such as strained and sprained muscles, but it can also worsen existing conditions you may be coping with, like heart disease or digestive ailments.
Using hands-on manipulation, massage therapists apply therapeutic techniques and rub tight muscles to soothe away tension. While receiving physical touch, your body moves from a stress response to a relaxation response, where your heart rate and blood pressure drop, and you take deeper and fuller breaths. You might even notice that your thoughts stop racing and you worry less.
With deep relaxation massages, the rejuvenating effects can linger, helping you to feel more calm and balanced in the hours and days following your appointment. Because of the long-lasting effects, massage therapy helps improve mental and emotional well-being, as many people report they’re in a better mood after a massage.
2. Alleviate Pain
During a massage, the therapist delivers a pattern of touch that gradually relaxes deep muscle tissue. As the muscle and surrounding tissue relax, it stops constriction or spasms that may be causing you pain. Additionally, a deep tissue massage can release tight muscles that may be compressing nearby nerves. By releasing pinched nerves, the patient will experience less pain in these areas as the pathways between the muscles and the brain are now uninterrupted.
Massage therapy may be effective at reducing pain from musculoskeletal disorders. One of the most common conditions that people undergo massage therapy for is mid-to-low back pain as well as neck and shoulder pain. People with osteoarthritis pain in the knees and other joints may also find short-term pain relief from massage therapy — especially when combined with soothing essential oils.
Massage therapy is also considered a beneficial complementary therapy recommended for people undergoing conventional treatments. One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that massage therapy helped alleviate pain and improve the quality of life in patients with late-stage cancer who were receiving palliative care. Several other studies found that massage therapy may help reduce pain in people who have recently undergone extensive surgery. When struggling with chronic pain, massage therapy can be a helpful, holistic way to manage pain naturally and is safe to use in conjunction with other treatments.
3. Improve Sleep Quality
Sleep has a significant impact on other aspects of our health, including our ability to concentrate and retain information. It’s also crucial for fending off illness and reducing our risk of chronic disease. According to the CDC, one-third of adults in America report that they don’t get enough sleep or that they experience regular sleep disturbances. If you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, you might consider massage therapy to help improve your sleep quality.
Massage therapy can address some of the common factors that contribute to poor sleep quality, such as chronic pain, stress and anxiety. It may also help menopause-related sleep disturbances in women. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 61 percent of menopausal women report insomnia symptoms. One study published in the journal, Sleep Science found that menopausal women who were experiencing sleep issues had improved sleep quality after undergoing massage therapy.
Massage therapy is believed to help stimulate the body’s production of two hormones — serotonin for mood regulation and melatonin for sleep. During a massage, you experience deep relaxation, which allows your body to produce these beneficial hormones that contribute to deep, restorative sleep. Even performing gentle self-massage techniques before bed can help soothe muscle tissue and induce deep relaxation to help you get better rest.
4. Relieve Tension Headaches
Tension headaches can be painful and debilitating, and many people experience them regularly. Stress is one of the most commonly reported triggers for tension heachaches. Additionally, tight and sore muscles in the neck, shoulders and back can also lead to headache pain. This may be more common among desk workers who don’t practice proper workplace ergonomics and struggle with maintaining a neutral posture.
Some people report that massage therapy helps relieve their tension headaches because it resolves some of their headache triggers. Massage therapists can target tight muscles in the neck and upper back that may be leading to tension headaches. For example, myofascial release techniques allow therapists to find and release trigger points in the muscles at the base of the skull. These muscles are connected to the head via nerves, and when they’re relaxed, it may help ease tension headaches. Massage therapy can also be beneficial in preventing tension headaches or reducing their frequency.
5. Increase Range of Motion and Flexibility
Maintaining your range of motion and flexibility is important to your long-term health. Having good mobility through your joints and tissues allows you to stay active and prevent injuries or degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis. Massage can help increase your range of motion and flexibility by loosening up tight connective tissues that restrict muscle and joint movement.
During a massage, your therapist will work on tight spots where the connective tissue is constricting blood flow to your muscles. As these tissues loosen, circulation to these areas increases, delivering oxygen and nutrients to help repair muscle cells. As connective tissues relax, the surrounding muscles or joints can move more freely, giving you greater flexibility and range of motion. Getting regular massages or performing daily self-massages can help you maintain your range of motion and improve movement in your joints over time.
Enjoy the Benefits of Massage Therapy At Home
Getting a massage is a relaxing, stress-relieving experience that can help you alleviate pain, improve your sleep quality and increase your mobility. Though professional massage therapy can boost your health and happiness, it’s not always easy to make time for regular appointments. Fortunately, there are ways you can practice self-massage at home.
Massage therapy solutions from Relax The Back can put you into a state of relaxation while relieving pain and lowering stress. Try these massage products for deep relaxation anytime in the comfort of your home:
- Massage chairs: Designed to mimic human touch, massage chairs deliver therapeutic massage techniques that relax muscles and alleviate soreness. With multiple settings and speeds, you can get a customized massage experience that targets muscles in the neck, shoulder and back as well as your hamstrings, calves and feet.
- Massage cushions: For a portable therapy solution, try massage cushions for your back or neck. Take a massage cushion with you on-the-go to help reduce travel-related stress and stiffness.
- Handheld massagers: Handheld massagers are portable therapy tools that help you gently loosen up tight spots in your neck, back, legs or feet. Handheld massagers give you control over the pressure and allow you to massage hard-to-reach spots, like in-between your shoulder blades.
For more massage therapy, relaxation and pain-relief solutions for home, work or travel, shop Relax The Back online. For personalized recommendations, stop by a location near you and speak with one of our spinal health experts.