There are many reasons people seek massage therapy, but most are interested in relaxation.
A deep sense of well-being is achieved through the calming music, low lights, and overall pampering, while the massage soothes sore muscles. But did you know that massage has some specific and measurable health benefits as well? Here are 6 surprising health benefits of massage therapy.
Eases Chronic Pain
Whether you suffer from a complex pain condition such as fibromyalgia or have residual pain from an old injury, massage therapy can help. The body attempts to compensate for pain by taking pressure off the sore area. This throws your posture out of alignment, forcing the rest of your muscles to work harder. Massage therapy relieves the knots and kinks in your muscles, helping them to more evenly support the painful region. This reduces your overall pain by removing the compounding issue of bound up muscles.
In addition, some chronic pain is caused or worsened by the stressors of daily life. For example, clenching the neck and head muscles during times of stress create tension headaches. On the other hand, prolonged sitting at a computer often triggers lower back pain. Massage therapy removes the tension, allowing your muscles to return to their natural state.
Reduces Anxiety and Depression
When provided in an emotionally safe way, human touch lowers stress chemicals while boosting feel-good hormones in the brain. Massage therapy is clinical yet intimate, creating a safe space to absorb the benefits of human touch. The deep relaxation that massage invokes floods the brain with endorphins and other feel-good hormones. These boost mood and reduce anxiety in the long term.
Alleviates Gastrointestinal Issues
Although the mind-gut connection is not fully understood, it is well documented. Many people develop gastrointestinal issues in response to situational or chronic stress. Like anxiety and depression, relief to digestive symptoms is achieved by the surge of calming hormones released during massage therapy. People with chronic digestive disorders often report that the pain causes their bodies to tense up. The tension makes the gastrointestinal symptoms worse, causing further tension and an escalating stress cycle. Massage therapy resets the body and mind, breaking the cycle and calming the symptoms.
A lack of sleep can cause a whole host of undesirable symptoms, from irritability to headaches to stomach troubles. Yet stress and anxiety can make sleep difficult or impossible. Additionally, the more sleep deprived you are, the harder it can be to fall asleep and stay asleep. The calming effects of massage therapy can dramatically boost your sleep quality, helping you feel refreshed and alert. Even in babies, light massage can encourage the development of regular sleep cycles.
Unblocks Natural Energy
Traditional Chinese medicine recognizes Qi as the life force that flows through all living things. Yet the stresses of daily life can cause it to become blocked, leading to health issues and an overall feeling of unwellness. Massage therapy can unblock the flow of Qi by resetting the body to its natural homeostasis.
Western medicine does not recognize Qi, but it has shown that blood flow tends to become constricted when the muscles become tightly knotted (as when your hand or foot falls asleep). Massage therapy loosens these constrictions, allowing your blood to circulate freely throughout your body.
Immune System Boost
Massage therapy boosts the immune system, although it is not fully clear exactly how or why. This boost can help minimize the number of minor illnesses you develop each year, and it can even help you mount a fight against more serious diseases. Massage therapy will not prevent you from getting sick altogether, but it will reduce the prevalence and make you feel less miserable when you do.