Experts estimate that more of 90 percent of disease in the United States is stress-related. And perhaps nothing ages us faster, internally and externally, than high stress held in our bodies for prolonged periods of time. Massage is an effective tool for managing this stress, which translates into:
- More restful sleep.
- Enhanced energy.
- Improved concentration.
- Greater peace of mind.
Massage can also specifically address a number of health issues. Bodywork can:
- Alleviate migraines and other muscle-related pain.
- Ease medication dependence.
- Increase flexibility and range of motion.
- Enhance immunity by stimulating the flow of lymph, the body's natural defense system.
- Relieve depression and anxiety.
- Improve circulation, helping your body pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.
- Reduce spasms and cramping.
- Release endorphins — amino acids that work as the body's natural painkillers.
So when should you consider getting a massage?
When you hurt physically. When it's painful to do normal daily activities — combing your hair, buckling your seat belt — or when you're dealing with chronic pain, you may be suffering from overly tight muscles. In some cases, common procedures such as knee replacements and carpel-tunnel surgeries could have been avoided with early treatment to the muscles involved.
When you're tapped out emotionally. All of us go through periods when the well is dry: too many responsibilities for taking care of others, not enough time for ourselves. Job and home stresses, grief over death and other losses, personal and professional frustrations — these difficult times can be easier to handle with professional bodywork sessions.
When you have trouble relaxing. Research shows that massage lowers the production of cortisol, the stress hormone that causes so many health problems when we spend too much time in fight-or-flight mode. Massage also helps the body release feel-good endorphins, just like chocolate does (but without all those pesky calories). Research suggests that repeated massage sessions can actually train the body to better adapt to stressful situations.
When you feel like doing something good for yourself. Yes, you deserve it. But a good massage is more than just pampering, because when we take care of the body, we support mind and spirit as well. Medical science is confirming what conventional wisdom already knew: That we can die from a broken heart. That emotions can eat away at us, literally as cancer sometimes. Massage clients sometimes find that during a good bodywork session, they can simply let go of repressed emotions that had been weighing them down. And then they can walk a little lighter through their lives.