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Massage Revs Up Immunity
In some countries–Thailand comes to mind–massage is nearly as much a part of daily life as eating. You can’t make your way through a Thai night market without seeing dozens of smiling people kicked back in chairs having their feet rubbed. In Nordic countries, including, of course, Sweden, a deep tissue massage is as common as stepping into a sauna.
The Consequences of Stress
Experts estimate that 80 percent to 90 percent of disease is stress-related. Massage and bodywork is there to combat that frightening number by helping us remember what it means to relax. The physical changes massage brings to your body can have a positive effect in many areas of your life. Besides increasing relaxation and decreasing anxiety, massage lowers your blood pressure, increases circulation, improves recovery from injury, helps you to sleep better and can increase your concentration. It reduces fatigue and gives you more energy to handle stressful situations.
Massage is a perfect elixir for good health, but it can also provide an integration of body and mind. By producing a meditative state or heightened awareness of living in the present moment, massage can provide emotional and spiritual balance, bringing with it true relaxation and peace.
The incredible benefits of massage are doubly powerful if taken in regular “doses.” Dr. Maria Hernandez-Reif, from the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami, is known for her massage research, along with colleague Tiffany Field. Together, they and other researchers have done outstanding work proving the value of massage. While their studies have shown we can benefit from massage even in small doses (15 minutes of chair massage or a half-hour table session), Hernandez-Reif says they know from their research that receiving bodywork 2-3 times a week is highly beneficial. And if we lived in a fantasy world, Hernandez-Reif has the answer. “I feel a daily massage is optimal.”
It’s undoubtedly a wonderful thing when your therapist begins unwinding those stress-tightened muscles, and your day’s troubles begin to fade away. But it’s the cherry on top to know this “medicine” only gets better with frequency.
What You Already Know: The Benefits of Massage
In an age of technical and, at times, impersonal medicine, massage offers a drug-free, non-invasive and humanistic approach based on the body’s natural ability to heal itself. So what exactly are the benefits to receiving regular massage and/or bodywork treatments?
– Increases circulation, allowing the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.
– Stimulates the flow of lymph, the body’s natural defense system, against toxic invaders. For example, in breast cancer patients, massage has been shown to increase the cells that fight cancer.
– Increased circulation of blood and lymph systems improves the condition of the body’s largest organ – the skin.
– Relaxes and softens injured and overused muscles
– Reduces spasms and cramping
– Increases joint flexibility.
– Reduces recovery time, helps prepare for strenuous workouts and eliminates subsequent pains of the athlete at any level.
– Releases endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller – and is being used in chronic illness, injury and recovery from surgery to control and relieve pain.
– Reduces post-surgery adhesions and edema and can be used to reduce and realign scar tissue after healing has occurred.
– Improves range-of-motion and decreases discomfort for patients with low back pain.
– Relieves pain for migraine sufferers and decreases the need for medication.
– Provides exercise and stretching for atrophied muscles and reduces shortening of the muscles for those with restricted range of motion.
– Assists with shorter labor for expectant mothers, as well as less need for medication, less depression and anxiety, and shorter hospital stays.