Benefits of a Massage

11/22/2021 | 10 min. read

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

We don’t need to tell you that massage feels great, but did you know they can be great for you as well?

The benefits of massage therapy extend far beyond simple relaxation, and the health experts at Healthy Directions are here to make sure you know all about them.

When you take care of yourself, you can improve your quality of life. That also means you are more capable of taking care of everything else that needs to get done, too. We’ll explain why you really do deserve that massage.

What Exactly Is a Massage?

While massage used to be delegated to only upscale spas or health clubs, the health benefits of a massage have led to far greater availability. There are also many different types of massage, each with its advantages and specific uses.

As a whole, massage refers to a service that includes pressing, manipulating, and rubbing the skin, ligaments, muscles, joints, and tendons of the body.

Whether you have fatigue, low back discomfort, tension headaches, poor posture, or nausea, massage can help.

How that occurs depends on the type of massage you’re having and can include anywhere from very light to deep pressure. The goal is to strategically and systematically manipulate soft tissues in a way that can help you manage your symptoms.

Types Of Massage

There are many different types of massage, but here are some of the more common types that you’ll likely find no matter where you go. When in doubt, always ask your massage therapist.

They can guide you toward which form of massage will be best to help address your specific issues.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is one of the most gentle forms of massage available. With Swedish massage, your massage therapist will use long strokes and a kneading motion to help your body and mind feel relaxed and energized. It may also include deep, circular movement, tapping, and vibration.

Sports Massage

Like Swedish massage, sports massage uses more gentle techniques to specifically address injuries or focus on injury prevention.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is on the opposite side of the scale from Swedish massage.

When receiving a deep tissue massage, your massage therapist will use slower, more firm strokes to get into the deeper layers of your muscle and connective tissue. This form of massage is frequently used to help manage specific injuries.

However, it is also associated with the most risk of pain afterward.

Trigger Point Massage

Trigger point massage is like a more targeted form of deep tissue massage. It focuses on tight muscle fibers that can form after overuse or a traumatic injury. Trigger point massages can be uncomfortable, as well.

How Can A Massage Help Me?

Massage is gaining popularity as a component of integrative medicine, which works side by side with traditional medicine to help manage symptoms. While many of its benefits depend on the type of massage you have performed, the general benefits can include the following:

  • Increasing relaxation, improving mood, and helping to decrease stress hormones like cortisol
  • Improving circulation, range of motion, and blood flow
  • Helping to increase energy and alertness
  • Lowering the heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improving immune function
  • Improving flexibility
  • Calming the nervous system and boosting serotonin
  • Boosting white blood cell count
  • Increasing circulation of lymph fluid and waste products

In addition, the act of massage can create feelings of closeness and care, similar to other forms of touch therapy.

Each of the benefits of a massage doesn’t exist in isolation, though. You can have a massage performed for a variety of reasons at the same time.

What Does The Research Say?

Like most of the other forms of integrative medicine, like acupuncture and aromatherapy, there isn’t a lot of research associated with tracking the benefits of a massage.

Much of this lack of research is due to the uniqueness and diversity of massage therapists and how catered explicitly to an individual each massage session is.

However, research is ongoing and positive, especially regarding chronic pain and lower back discomfort.

Risks Of Massage

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention a few risks and side effects that may be associated with having a massage performed.

While low, there are a few health conditions that may increase those risks, including:

  • Bleeding disorders (or those taking blood thinners)
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Healing wounds or burns
  • Fractures
  • Active infections
  • Low platelet count

In general, the risks of massage are directly related to how deep and vigorous the massage is. If you’re unsure of your own risk factors, check with your massage therapists before scheduling.

The Role Of Water In Massage

Although the benefits of a massage are powerful on their own, you must focus on drinking plenty of water both before and after your massage.

Appropriate water intake helps twofold. First of all, water can be an essential component of natural relief. This can help manage the discomfort associated with the reason you are seeking massage and help with any lingering achiness afterward.

When your massage therapist manipulates your muscles, it naturally releases metabolic waste from the muscle tissue and bloodstream.

Water helps flush this waste and toxins through that process quicker, helping you recover from the massage faster. Increasing your water intake also helps your lymphatic system clear waste, helping to keep your overall system healthier.

With this in mind, make sure that you’re drinking at least eight glasses of water the day before your massage and an additional eight glasses of water the day after.

In Conclusion

The benefits of a massage are numerous and can impact the entirety of your body. When you seek the appropriate form of massage and understand more about how it can affect your body, you can use this fantastic form of integrative medicine in your health and wellness plan.

It’s about so much more than just relaxation, although that remains one of the most popular reasons people schedule a massage.

Sources:

Integrative medicine | Mayo Clinic

What Does the Research Say about Massage Therapy? | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing (umn.edu)

Massage Therapy: What You Need To Know | NIH

Healthy Directions Staff Editor