Sure, massage feels great and melts away stress. But a regular rubdown can also help you manage a host of chronic health problems. Here's how to get the most out of massage therapy without breaking the bank.
The Main Benefits of Massage
By lessening the tension in your muscles, massage therapy can help you overcome a number of stress-related health issues, including insomnia, fatigue, and lack of focus. Massage also reduces stiffness in your muscles and joints, which could help boost your flexibility and mobility (both essential to healthy aging).
What's more, research shows that massage can decrease stress hormones while increasing levels of feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which could explain the therapy's positive effects on people with depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Treating Health Troubles with Massage
While massage can't cure disease, there is evidence that it can help ease the negative effects of several chronic conditions. For instance, a 2008 study showed that massage therapy may help increase range of motion and decrease pain in people struggling with low back pain and sciatica. Other studies suggest that regular massage can help lower high blood pressure, decrease stiffness and improve functioning in arthritis patients, and reduce pain intensity for people prone to tension headaches.
Research also indicates that massage might benefit those with carpal tunnel syndrome and post-operative pain.
Save Money on Massage
Since regular massage sessions can be costly, consider skipping high-end day spas and trying a massage clinic or chiropractic office. You can also save by going to a local massage school, but keep in mind that the students' skill levels may not be as high as those of experienced professionals. And if you're receiving massage to help with a medical condition, find out if your insurance will cover some or all of the cost.
Practicing self-massage (by using a tennis ball to rub away muscle knots, for example) can also go a long way in releasing tension. But no matter which approach you take, remember that massage only provides short-term relief of stress and stress-related symptoms. For optimal health, make sure to incorporate other natural treatments for stress into your daily routine.
Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. "Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy." The International Journal of Neuroscience 2005 115(10):1397-413.
Bell J. "Massage therapy helps to increase range of motion, decrease pain and assist in healing a client with low back pain and sciatica symptoms." Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 2008 12(3):281-9.
Olney CM. "The effect of therapeutic back massage in hypertensive persons: a preliminary study." Biological Research for Nursing 2005 7(2):98-105.
Perlman AI, Sabina A, Williams AL, Njike VY, Katz DL. "Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled trial." Archives of Internal Medicine 2006 166(22):2533-8.
Moraska A, Chandler C. "Changes in Clinical Parameters in Patients with Tension-type Headache Following Massage Therapy: A Pilot Study." The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy 2008;16(2):106-12.
Moraska A, Chandler C, Edmiston-Schaetzel A, Franklin G, Calenda EL, Enebo B. "Comparison of a targeted and general massage protocol on strength, function, and symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized pilot study." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2008 14(3):259-67.
Mitchinson AR, Kim HM, Rosenberg JM, Geisser M, Kirsh M, Cikrit D, Hinshaw DB. "Acute postoperative pain management using massage as an adjuvant therapy: a randomized trial." Archives of Surgery 142(12):1158-67.