The science doesn’t lie — not only does massage feel good, but it is truly good for your health! Ongoing research has consistently proven that massage therapy has the power to deliver long-term health benefits. Not only can massage have positive effects on physical health, but it can even improve mental and emotional health as well.
In this article, we’re covering everything from the scientifically backed benefits of massage therapy to five massage aids that can be used at home. Take charge of your health and well-being and read on.
Types of Massage
Massage is the act of manipulating muscles and joints of the body in an effort to alleviate tension or pain. You may think that massage needs to be administered by someone else, but it is actually something that you can perform on yourself. A practice deeply rooted in the history of natural healing, there are a several forms of massage that remain popular today.
- Trigger point massage: Consists of administering alternating levels of pressure with the fingers, knuckles or elbows for a measured period of time between 10 and 30 seconds. This form of massage is meant to alleviate muscle spasms.
- Swedish massage: Combines soft, long, kneading strokes with light, rhythmic tapping strokes along the top layer of muscles. This form of massage is designed for relaxation and energy stimulation.
- Deep tissue massage: Slower, more forceful strokes reach deep layers of muscle and connective tissue. This form of massage is intended to help with injury.
- Heat therapy massage: Also known as thermotherapy, this form combines the use of heat in lieu or in addition to Swedish style massage strokes. It has become an increasingly popular feature in premium massage chairs – the best heated massage chairs even have the capability of speeding up the body’s natural recovery process.
- Sports massage: Manipulates muscles that may experience significant physical demand as a result of an active lifestyle. This form of massage is geared toward athletes.
Physical Benefits of Massage
Any form of massage is a great way to loosen your muscles and increase both flexibility and mobility, but the science proves that the benefits go much deeper than that.
Boost Immune System
Massage therapy increases the activity of white blood cells that help improve overall immune function. Studies have shown that because massage can stimulate the toxin-filtering lymphatic system, it can improve the body’s ability to fight off infection.
Lower Heart Rate & Blood Pressure
Massage has been shown to improve cardiovascular health in all individuals, regardless of exercise level. The International Journal of Preventive Medicine conducted a study on hyper-tensive women in which they found that participants who received Swedish massage experienced a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure for as long as 72 hours after receiving massage therapy.
Reduce Muscle Pain & Increase Range of Motion
While massage can certainly help relieve symptoms of soreness in an athlete’s muscles after a hard workout, it also has the power to reduce pain for those with arthritis. One study found that moderate-pressure massages coupled with daily self-massages led to reduced pain and increased range of motion.
Reduce Type II Diabetes Symptoms
A 2020 study evaluated the feasibility of Chinese massage in the treatment of Type II Diabetes. Chinese massage techniques are performed with the hands and include kneading, rolling and acupressure. Results found that by combining massage with metformin, patients were able to reduce their drug treatments!
Decrease Headaches & Migraines
Massage focused on the neck and shoulder muscles has been linked to a decrease in the occurrence of headaches and migraines. For this reason, doctors frequently recommend massage therapy to those who have recently had a concussion or face post-concussion syndrome. In one study, headache frequency was significantly reduced within the first week of the massage protocol and further suggested that this could apply to chronic tension headache sufferers as well.
Emotional & Mental Benefits of Massage
Although massage therapy is a physical act, the nontangible benefits go much further than that. The most notable emotional and mental benefits of massage include:
Increase Relaxation & Better Sleep
Massage has been proven to reduce cortisol levels (the hormone that causes stress), thus triggering the brain to respond by entering a deep state of relaxation. This decrease in physical and mental stress can subsequently lead to deeper, easier sleep.
Decrease Symptoms of Anxiety
Regular massage naturally lowers overall stress levels, which can reduce the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety. A study on generalized anxiety disorder found that therapeutic massage could reduce symptoms of anxiety by 50 percent.
Decrease Symptoms of Depression
It is evident that being relaxed leads to an overall happier state of mind. However, research conducted on serious mood disorders such as depression show that massage has a legitimate long-term effect on mental health as well.
5 Commonly Used Massage Aids
There is no time like the present to start putting your health first. With such a wide array of products on the market, below are a few of the best massage aids that can be used on their own. By incorporating these tools into your daily routine, you will soon begin to reap the health and wellness benefits that come with massage.
- Foam Roller: Foam rolling can prevent injury, increase blood flow and relax tight muscles. Experts recommend foam rolling before and after a workout to maximize its effects.
- Heating Pad: Heat is a natural pain reliever and is commonly used to loosen the muscles prior to any deep massage treatments. If you have a sensitive muscular area, try using a heating pad for 15 minutes before you administer or receive any deep-tissue massage techniques.
- Aromatherapy / Essential Oils: Whether you use essential oils in a diffuser, put a few drops in a bath or rub the oil directly onto your skin, scents can be a relaxing compliment to massage therapy.
- Massage Chair: Advancements in technology have enabled massage chairs to deliver a premium massage in the comfort of your home. Both heated massage chairs and zero gravity massage chairs use cutting-edge technology to aid in relaxation and allow you to reap the previously mentioned health benefits.
- Massage Gun: For those who are highly active, a massage gun is a useful handheld massage tool to have at home. Like traditional massage, a massage gun will reduce inflammation, helping to relax muscles and decrease soreness.
Besides the immediate benefit of relaxation, massage therapy is a great resource to increase your all-around health and well-being. As the volume of research on this practice continues to grow, the list of reasons to utilize massage will grow right along with it. The longevity of your health is important; with massage, you can give your mind and body the care they deserve.