What are the Benefits?
A massage isn’t cheap, but it’s health benefits make it a good way to spend your money. It’s been found to be effective for treating a variety of ailments — muscle aches and pains, of course, but also persistent headaches and problems related to digestion, blood pressure, circulation, and sleep. It also improves posture, which can be the cause of chronic back pain.
But stress relief is one of massage’s greatest features. In fact, many of the benefits we just mentioned are actually a by-product of reduced stress. Katie P, a massage therapist in Charlotte, N.C., puts it this way:
“The greatest reward as a massage therapist is giving the gift of relaxation. Clients who stick to a massage regimen eventually achieve a sense of calm and peace, and over time come to feel less burdened. The power of touch is so primal, so healing, and so often overlooked.”
Take digestion and the immune system. When you’re continually stressed out, blood pressure rises and muscles tighten; your body increases blood circulation to the heart, muscles, and lungs, and suppresses the digestive and immune systems. That makes you more susceptible to digestive problems and immune system illnesses, such as colds or the flu. Chronic stress also causes your body to produce high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain, sleeplessness, digestive problems, and headaches. You’re also more prone to feel depressed and anxious when you’re stressed.
A massage program can put your immune system back on track and restore normal circulation by relaxing the muscles, as well as decrease cortisol levels and increase levels of dopamine and serotonin. These two hormones produce a feeling of calm and relaxation, keep the central nervous system functioning smoothly, promote healing, and help in coping with pain.