Weekly Wellness: The power of a massage

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COLUMBIA - Expensive. Decadent. Special occasion.

A few words that I've heard used to describe a type of therapy that I truly believe is incredibly healthy for anyone. There are so many documented health benefits that come from the use of this therapy.

Massage.

Let me tell you - it's not just about relaxation (although that is a huge bonus).

Multiple studies have shown the effectiveness of massage therapy for back pain. In fact, one 2003 study showed it worked better than acupuncture or spinal modification for persistent low back pain -- reducing the need for painkillers by 36 percent.

More than one study has shown that massage therapy can reduce the number of migraines a person has and also improve sleep.

In the first clinical trial looking at the effectiveness of Swedish massage for knee osteoarthritis, participants who received a one-hour massage either one or two times a week had improvements in pain, stiffness, and function. The control group had no such change.
Used with traditional, Western medicine, massage has been shown to promote relaxation and reduce cancer symptoms or side effects of treatment. It may help reduce pain, swelling, fatigue, nausea, or depression, for example, or improve the function of your immune system.

And a review of more than 12 studies shows that massage helps relieve depression and anxiety. It lowered levels of cortisol by up to 50 percent; and it increased levels of neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.

Even more research studies have found massage may be helpful for:

  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Some types of joint pain

 

Now that you're ready to make your first (or next) massage appointment, you might be wondering how to find a reputable therapist.

Believe it or not, massage can be performed by several types of health care professionals, such as a physical therapist, or occupational therapist. You can ask your physician for a referral or recommendation.

You can also ask your friends, your coworkers or your personal trainer. As a personal trainer, I have many professional relationships with massage therapists (as training and massage work very well together).

Once you have found a massage therapist that you would like to check out, be prepared to ask these questions (for your own protection):

  • Are you licensed, certified and/or registered?
  • What is your training and experience?
  • How many massage therapy sessions do you think I'll need?
  • What's the cost of your sessions?
  • Do you work with health insurance?

There can also be a misconception about cost. Massage therapy sessions can range in cost from $30 - $300.

Price is dependent upon the type of massage, the length of the massage (generally, 30 minutes - 90 minutes), and the location. Another benefit to being in mid-Missouri? Massage therapy sessions tend to cost more in larger metropolitan areas than in smaller ones. A good rule of thumb is to plan on about a dollar per minute (although you can find them less).

Now, you're ready for your massage. How should you prepare for your appointment? If you are a new client to your therapist, you will want to arrive a few minutes early to complete any paperwork that they may give you. Your massage therapist will generally ask you about your medical history, any current symptoms you may/may not be experiencing and what your goals are for your massage (i.e. any specific pain, tightness, etc.). Your massage therapist should explain the kind of massage and techniques he or she will use.

In a typical massage therapy session, you will undress (only to the point that you feel comfortable) or wear loose-fitting clothing. You will generally lie on a table (your massage therapist will instruct you whether to start face up or face down on the massage table, based on your need) and cover yourself with a sheet.

During your massage, your therapist may use a massage oil or massage lotion. If you have any allergies to potential ingredients of an oil or lotion, inform your therapist before they begin.

There are a number of different types of massage, with the most common being:

  • Swedish massage: This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, and tapping to help relax and energize you.
  • Deep tissue massage: This massage technique uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
  • Sports massage: This is similar to Swedish massage, but it's geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
  • Trigger point massage: This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.

The level of pressure that your massage therapist uses during the massage is directly related to the type of massage you are receiving. However, if at any time you feel the pressure is painful or uncomfortable, communicate that with your massage therapist. During your massage, your massage therapist will check in with you to make sure you are doing okay.

After your massage, you will be encouraged to drink water. The reason for this is that water will help the kidneys and other organs process the various substances which move through the body on a regular basis and after a massage treatment, a lot of toxins have been released, so you need to flush them out.

See! It's healthy! You're flushing out toxins! If you still need a reason to get a massage, give me a call. I'll talk you into it. Trust me, you're gonna love it.

 

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