By Francesca Russo, LMT

The health benefits of massage


Last updated 10/25/2022 at Noon

Massage is widely accessible and viewed as an important tool in promoting mental and physical health. It is increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.

At one time, massage was available only at high-end spas or health clubs, and considered a luxury for the wealthy. A common misconception about massage is that it’s part of a spa day, and intended for pampering yourself. While this may be true for some people, it is most frequently used as a tool for stress reduction and pain relief.

Massage is a general term for the rubbing and kneading of muscles and joints of the body with the hands, especially to relieve tension or pain. It may range from light stroking to deep pressure. If you have never tried massage, read on to learn about its many benefits.

Some specific conditions that massage may help include: anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, headache, insomnia, scar tissue, sports injuries, TMJ disorders, and postoperative care.

“When I feel pressure building in my head I know it’s time to get a massage. Massage helps keep the migraines away.” — C.P., Sisters

For most patients, massage therapy is an important part of specific medical treatment plans to help them return to daily activities. For example, massage therapy is helpful after joint replacement surgery or recovering from an injury. (Most physical therapy and chiropractic offices have massage therapists on staff.)

Physical benefits of massage include: improved circulation, reduced muscle stiffness, better quality of sleep, improved flexibility, less pain and soreness, and strengthened immune response.

As one local massage patient noted, “I feel taller and much more flexible after a massage.”

Mental benefits

Massage also has many mental health benefits. Even people who are focused on the physical benefits say they feel less stressed after getting a massage. Other mental benefits include: lower stress levels, improved relaxation, improved mood, decreased anxiety, more energy, increased feeling of wellness.

“I look forward to my monthly massage; it helps me relax,” says C.F. of Sisters.

After a massage

It’s common to feel relaxed, tired, or even sore after a massage. This is because the massage therapist is working your muscles. After a massage, it may feel like you completed a workout. It is possible to experience a headache after a massage. This can be a form of detoxing, often alleviated by drinking a large glass of water and staying hydrated.

Some people think that massage must hurt to help. But a massage doesn’t need to be painful to be effective. Massage pressure is unique to each individual, and to their needs. Most people enjoy a medium amount of pressure and others enjoy light pressure. There are specific types of massage, like Cranial Sacral Therapy, that use extremely gentle techniques to assist you to relax.

If your massage therapist is pushing too hard, and it does not feel good, speak up and ask for lighter pressure. By communicating with your therapist, you are insured to get the experience you will enjoy.

Finding a massage therapist

Like choosing other health care professionals, it’s important to be clear on your goal when selecting a massage therapist. Are you looking for relaxation, or to reduce muscle stiffness? Ask someone you trust to recommend a therapist. There are many massage therapists trained in numerous techniques, so finding someone who is compatible to your needs may take experiencing more than one style of massage. Don’t give up!

When making your first appointment, don’t be afraid to ask the massage therapist questions that are important to you, such as, “I’ve never had a massage.” Then explain your issue and ask what is the best type of massage for the first time. “I am still wearing a mask in public. Will you be wearing one?” and “What’s the cost, and do you take health insurance? If not, can you recommend someone who does?”

A skilled massage therapist has a vast array of techniques that can be incorporated based on your needs, and he or she will respond and modify these techniques based on your feedback. It is extremely important to communicate with your therapist.

Massage therapy is safe and effective for people of all ages. It is not only a feel-good way to pamper yourself. It is a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being.


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