Headaches, not sleeping enough, aches and pains, stress… we are all affected by these issues, however massage may not be the first thing that comes to mind. So many of us reach for a painkiller hoping that the pain will go away. However, even the most effective of tablets will not deal with the root cause of the problem. That’s why seeing a professional massage therapist can make all the difference between ignoring/masking pain and truly dealing with it. Here’s a list of the 5 most common reasons to have a massage.
You travel frequently on business
Most people who travel extensively for business will require regular massage to increase their well-being. Frequent flyers are more likely to have a stiff neck and shoulders and may suffer from fatigue from well on the plane or in hotel beds. If you also have problems with your circulation you may risk waking up with swollen lower legs at the end of the flight. Researchers at the Bnai Zion Medical Center in Israel estimate that more than 100 million people worldwide suffer from headaches caused by flying. Air quality can be compromised: the air circulating in the cabin is dry and may have low oxygen levels. Also fast changes in altitude and pressure can trigger headaches. Tension in the neck and shoulders are often a by-product of these changes. Long train journeys can have similar problems but at least you can walk up and down your carriage without having to wait for the “release seat belt” sign to appear. It’s not all doom and gloom of course! The best solution is to plan some wellness activities before and after a long flight. Scheduling a massage both before and after a long flight will help combat the stiffness from sitting in the same position for hours. Remember that the air conditioning plus the cabin pressure will further aggravate any existing issues you may have with your neck and shoulders. Those artificial conditions created in the cabin can also cause dehydration, which can also aggravate headaches. To ensure your flight is relatively pain-free, remember to stretch before, during and after your journey. It is also a good idea to do some research before you travel for either independent massage practitioners or complementary clinics at your destination. You can choose on the basis of great online customer feedback or by recommendation. Once you land, schedule a massage as soon as possible to help your body recover and regulate your sleeping patterns after a long haul flight. A full body massage on arrival is probably one of the best antidotes to flying especially if your work schedule is so busy that you will not have breaks during the day. Ask your massage practitioner to concentrate on the neck and shoulders to ease the tension and on the lower legs to improve the circulation.
You suffer from anxiety and stress
People suffering from stress tend to require a routine that will calm the mind. A combined approach with yoga and massage can help. Meditation should also be included in your stress toolkit. The best solution for anxiety and stress is to establish some patterns so that, when life throws a curveball at you, at least you have some structure to fall back on. Massage should be part of your stress toolkit but also of your normal schedule: if possible, establish a pattern of having a massage every two weeks. Leaving long gaps between treatments will mean that, when you book your next massage treatment, you have probably gone back to the same levels of tension you had before your previous appointment. A good maintenance schedule is the best solution, and having a security blanket of a massage to look forward to will put your worries into perspective. The science behind having regular massage treatments for stress and anxiety confirms that therapeutic massage increases the levels of feel good hormones endorphins and lowers the levels of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. A study from Umea University, in Sweden, in 2011, found that only 5 minutes of massage helped patients to reduce their heart rate. Application of touch therapy acted on the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for regulating breathing, circulation and heart rate. The effect of massage in the study was to create a sense of relaxation while reducing stress levels. The study showed that massage reduced the stress hormone cortisol however a similar result was achieved in the control group by simply resting for an allocated amount of time equivalent to that of those patients who were treated with massage. A study published in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery found that post-operative heart surgery patients benefited from therapeutic massage as it lowered pain, anxiety and muscular tension.
You work out at the gym, practice sports or run marathons
Exercising is great for your overall health. Exercise tones up the muscles giving you strength and stamina. When muscles are exercised they tense up from contracting and they may require some massage treatment to keep in peak condition and prevent injuries. There is not sufficient and conclusive scientific data about lactic acid and the effects of massage on removing or reducing waste products from exercise. The Massage and Bodywork Magazine featured an article in 2011 by Diana L. Thompson called “The Lactic Acid Debate” where she analysed the current research and her findings were that massage has no impact on lactic acid nor it eliminates it. Lactic acid, the by-product of exercise, will reduce automatically in the body after 60 minutes from physical activity. It is worth noting that lactic acid is not just a waste product but it is used by the muscles as fuel for prolonged exercise. However, it is true that regular massage will decrease pain and discomfort after a heavy training session and is commonly used by top athletes to improve their performance and reduce recovery time after a competition. In fact, massage acts on the pain receptor and increases the release of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, giving you a sense of relaxation and comfort within your body. Runners at some point of their training may suffer from conditions like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), and shin splints. Massage can help ease the discomfort from these conditions and increase the range of movement. Before a big event like a marathon massage can help improve performance by increasing flexibility and stamina. After an event massage can address the discomfort felt by a runner in the muscles (delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS) which can last up to 72 hours. The discomfort is not caused by lactic acid but by microscopic lesions in the muscles and the fascia, and inflammation. A study by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found that massage is useful in the treatment of injuries and chronic conditions. Massage therapy reduced the inflammatory response in healthy young men after exercise. Massage was also linked to production of extra energy to the muscles by stimulating the mitochondria, the energy centers inside cells in the human body.
You suffer from insomnia
Lack of sleep is the number one reason for feeling fatigued during the day and reaching for stimulants like tea and coffee to stay awake and alert, causing a vicious circle of insomnia. No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning in bed, trying to get some rest and failing to get some decent sleep. Insomnia has a detrimental effect on concentration, memory and mood. We become irritable when we can’t sleep. Regular massage can help normalize sleeping patterns. A study published in 2008 in the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that cancer patients slept better after receiving regular therapeutic massage. Massage improved the patients’ comfort and quality of sleep while also lifting their moods. Chronic insomnia is defined as continuous lack of sleep or broken sleep for 6 months or more. The neurotransmitter serotonin is responsible for regulating sleep and insomnia sufferers tend to have low levels of serotonin. Serotonin helps make the hormone melatonin which induces sleep. A research study from Touch Research Institute and the University of Miami School of Medicine found that massage improved sleep quality and increased levels of serotonin in patients. Patients received two weekly massages for five weeks and reported sleeping better as a result.
You suffer from back pain or general aches and pains
Aches and pains is a broad category can can include non-chronic conditions like aches after getting a virus to long-term illnesses like arthritis and chronic fatigue. A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that people suffering from arthritis felt a reduction in pain after receiving massage treatments and improved their range of movement. The research study was based on administering light massage to patients once a week for four weeks. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that 10 minutes of massage or 10 minutes or recovery exercise can lower pain in aching muscles. Another study in the Archives of Surgery concluded that “Massage is an effective and safe adjuvant therapy for the relief of acute postoperative pain in patients undergoing major operations.” The study looked at war veterans who underwent surgery and received massage treatment. Patients reported having less pain after receiving a massage. If we look at back pain in more detail, we must say that as a condition it is extremely complex as it can be caused by a multitude of factors. Stress, posture, trapped nerves, exertion, lifting heavy weights incorrectly are some of the causes of back pain. In some cases a referral to an osteopath or chiropractor is necessary for example for a slipped disc. Muscular pain can be addressed by therapeutic massage to increase the range of movement and comfort. Studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that therapeutic massage reduced the symptoms and discomfort of back pain in patients. The Group Health Research Institute analysed the results of applying therapeutic massage to 400 people for 10 weeks in 2011. The verdict was that 40% achieved a complete or almost complete relief from pain. The control group was taking painkillers and only 4% reported a reduction in pain.
There are plenty more reasons (or should we say excuses?) to get a massage including general well-being and taking time off from a busy schedule. Massage is a therapeutic aid for common ailments like headaches and tension and, unlike tablets, have no or very little side effects.
Now, go get a massage!Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net