We commonly think of massage as just an occasional treat or a luxury that only some can afford. While massage is a treat and you will surely leave feeling rejuvenated, there is a huge difference between a massage and any old back rub. Regular, therapeutic massage can have a very real impact on your overall health in the short and long term.
First of all, the benefits of massage are directly related to the abilities of your massage therapist, which can vary greatly. When searching for a practitioner, consider the following:
While it’s also nice to get a massage from your partner or friend, a professional massage therapist should have extensive education in their field. Always inquire into the extent of their training, where they studied, and which courses they’ve completed. You can also inquire as to how much experience they have and if they have a specialty.
Certification or Licensing
Most states in the US have regulations on massage therapists, and they must be either certified or licensed in order to legally practice (the specifics depend on which state you live in). Make sure to see a therapist who meets these regulations.
Ideally, your practitioner will also have undergone continuing education over the course of their time as a massage therapist. This ensures that they keep up on the latest research and techniques.
Professional Conduct and Standards
Massage therapists should always maintain professional conduct with their clients, as they are committed to a strict code of ethics. If you ever question the conduct of your practitioner, this is a sign you probably want to look elsewhere for massage services.
Now, let’s go on to the benefits.
Top 5 Reasons Massage is More Than a Luxury
Massage has been used throughout history to relieve pain. While it can work wonders on muscle pain and tension, research has also shown its benefits for pain associated with fibromyalgia, cancer, and migraines. This is largely due to the endorphins released during massage.
Studies show that massage works to increase blood flow, which delivers oxygen to all of the body’s cells. This in turn can seriously boost our energy levels, and also help with those all-too-familiar energy dips and spikes.
Improved Immune System
One of the lesser known and most impressive benefits of massage is its incredible ability to boost your immune function and help you stay healthier throughout the year. One study found that those who received a 45-minute massage saw a significant increase in the white blood cells that protect the body from disease. It also reduced the participant’s cytokine levels, which help to reduce inflammation.
Decreased Stress, Depression, Insomnia, and Anxiety
You’ve probably noticed just how relaxed you feel after a massage, and studies also suggest that regular massage can improve symptoms of generalized anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia.
Lessen the Symptoms of PMS
Research on female participants found that common symptoms of PMS such as irritability, anxiety, headaches, and bloating were improved with massage therapy. So, getting a monthly massage around that time of your cycle could make a big difference in how you feel.
While these are five primary benefits of regular massage (and reasons that massage is much more than just a luxury), other considerations are that massage can help with muscle spasms and recovery, relief from arthritis pain, joint flexibility, and even a shorter labor and reduced tearing in birthing mothers.
If you can’t afford regular massages, check out schools of massage in your area for more affordable services. If you have a friend who is a massage therapist, see if they might be up for a trade of some sort. However, never underestimate the hard work that goes into both the training and delivery of a high quality massage, and know that you usually get what you pay for.