The therapeutic benefits of massage go beyond a relaxing indulgence or self-pampering exercise. It’s actually a powerful tool that is often overlooked in the treatment of many health conditions and symptoms, including stress, pain, depression, headaches, and even cancer-related issues.
Therapeutic massage involves manipulation of the soft tissues and muscles to improve function and relieve pain. Its many forms can help to treat a wide range of health issues, from back pain and headaches to arthritis and cancer-related discomfort. In fact, research published in Integrative Cancer Therapies suggests that massage can significantly reduce fibromyalgia pain, anxiety and fatigue, while improving sleep, cognitive function, mood, and overall quality of life.
In addition to relieving aches and pains, massage can also boost your immune system and improve circulation. When the body is relaxed, blood pressure decreases, which helps to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. And the regular flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body’s tissues and organs promotes cell growth, repair, and healing, according to a study in Medical Science Monitor.
Massage can reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which can help improve your mood and make you feel better. It may also help with sleep disorders and gastrointestinal problems, like constipation or diarrhea. And it can lessen delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after exercise and improve flexibility for people with chronic injuries or illnesses, such as diabetes or congestive heart failure.
Studies show that therapeutic massage reduces the frequency of migraines and decreases the intensity of them in people who suffer from them. It also has been shown to reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis, such as knee and hip joint pain. Massage has been found to be effective in increasing range of motion for people with fibromyalgia and in reducing the number and severity of headaches in those with chronic tension headaches.
When you have a sprained ankle or wrist, massage can stimulate the muscles and increase circulation and movement, which can help speed recovery. It can also alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome and other numbness-causing conditions in the hands and arms. And it can help to reduce the pain associated with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment in cancer patients.
While there are many advantages to therapeutic massage, it’s important to choose a trained professional. Certain techniques, especially those used on pregnant women, can trigger contractions and premature labor. And if someone has a serious condition, such as cancer or a weakened heart, some types of massage can be dangerous.
To learn more about the therapeutic benefits of massage, and which type of therapy might work best for you, talk to your doctor. If your doctor approves, you can then find a massage therapist in your area. For the most beneficial results, schedule weekly sessions for massages that are 30 to 60 minutes in length. And remember, to get the most out of your therapeutic massage, it’s best to receive a session in the early stages of an illness or injury.