When is the last time you had a massage? I love them, but don’t get them often enough. You know you’ve had a great one when you stumble off the table with crease lines all over your face from the “donut hole” (I’m pretty sure that’s not the technical term) and you can’t remember the last 5 minutes of your life.
According to Wikipedia, massage started to become popular in the United States in the middle part of the 19th century and was introduced by two New York physicians based on Per Henrik Ling's techniques developed in Sweden (thank God for the Swedes and their massage techniques – and Ikea!).
The 2011 American Massage Therapist Association consumer survey said that almost 1 in 5 American adults got at least one massage in the past 12 months. 44% were for medical or health reasons and that number is increasing.
Massages and massage therapy are certainly becoming more popular – and especially for health reasons. To provide some expertise on the topic, I spoke with Kimberly Fink. She’s been a licensed massage therapist for over 19 years and has experience in multiple massage techniques. Anyone who’s spent a few minutes with her knows she has a true passion for helping people feel healthier and more functional in their lives.
Here are her top 7 reasons you need a massage…
1) It’s proven
As Kimberly points out, “Massage therapy helps to not only relax us, but has many health and medical benefits.While many consider it a ‘luxury,’ more people now see massage as an essential part of their ongoing preventative health maintenance plan. In addition, many healthcare professionals (MDs, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, hospitals, etc.) now have Licensed Massage Therapists on staff.”
2) There’s something for everyone
From infants to elderly and everyone in between, massage therapy can be an essential part of your health and well-being. There are multiple techniques offered, so find what’s right for you. Kimberly explains just a few:
• SWEDISH is the most basic and the first technique taught in massage therapy school. It’s mostly used for general relaxation.
• MEDICAL MASSAGE can help with a variety of medical conditions (and some will require a letter of release from your doctor), including pre- and post-surgical procedures, fibromyalgia, headaches/migraines, diabetes, some heart and lung conditions, paralysis, cancer, arthritis, and more!
• SPORTS MASSAGE involves stretching and specific techniques to relax tight, sore muscles, tendons & ligaments. This type of massage can also calm muscle spasms, and increase muscle flexibility, joint flexibility and range of motion
• PRE- & POST-NATAL MASSAGE can not only help the mother, but it can also be beneficial for the baby.
• MYOFASCIAL RELEASE helps to stretch connective tissue which improves circulation, helps with nerve issues and increases the mobility of muscles and joints.
• MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE is a very gentle massage stroking technique used to help reduce certain types of Edema (swelling) and help increase your immune system.
3) Relaxes muscles
This one is pretty obvious, but there’s more going on than meets the “thigh.” Think back to your high school biology class: your nerves, veins and vessels all run through your muscles and they’re each doing important life-giving work (we’ll skip the technical descriptions – you’re welcome!). So, when muscles are tight, it restricts all of those functions – this is not healthy. When you release the muscles so your nerves, veins and vessels can properly function, it increases your blood flow which improves your overall health and helps your entire body relax.
4) Increases joint flexibility
Have you heard the saying, “When mama’s not happy, no one is happy?” The same goes for your body - when our muscles are tight, our joints aren’t happy. Kimberly says, “That’s why it’s called a ‘musculo-skeletal system’ - it’s all hooked together.”
During my last annual doctor visit, my doctor was feeling all my joints (did I mention he’s kind of a “joint whisperer”?) and stopped at my knee. With eyes closed, he noted, “Something’s not right here.” I reminded him of my 2001 drunk driving card accident (um, I was not the drunk driver) in which that femur was broken. I’ll admit, my knee is often sore and swollen, but not enough to make note. The following interaction ensued…
Him: “What are you doing about that? You need to be doing something.”
Me: “OK, like what?”
Him: “Regular massages would help.”
Me: “Sweet, now I really have a reason.”
5) Decreases fatigue
I’m always surprised by studies that say XX% of Americans wake up tired. Mainly, I’m surprised that it’s not 100%! Surely no one reading this article is tired! Simply put, fatigue (weakness or tiredness) is a lack of energy to perform daily tasks. Even with lots of rest (and Starbucks…and Red Bull…and energy shots…and juicing), it doesn’t go away. Because massage increases circulation and helps to relax the nervous system, it can improve sleep patterns and your overall sense of well-being, thereby reducing fatigue.
6) Releases endorphins
Endorphins are your friend – they’re nature’s painkillers, stress-fighters and mood-enhancers. In short, they take you to your happy place. During massage, large amounts of endorphins are released into the bloodstream. This could explain why I usually stumble off the massage table in an “I-love-you-man” kind of mood. As Dr. Stretch Dowse, Victorian physician, remarked in 1887: "The mind, which before massage is in a perturbed, restless, vacillating, and even despondent state, becomes calm, quiet, peaceful, and subdued after massage. In fact, the wearied and worried mind has been converted into a mind restful, placid, and refreshed.” Well, sign me up for that!
7) Aids in the elimination of waste
EWWW! When I asked Kimberly exactly what she meant by this point, she said, “Basically, massage moves your gut along. This helps you to be a better sweat-er and poop-er. People with IBS or chronic constipation get abdominal massages and it really helps with the elimination process.” And who among us doesn’t strive to be a better poop-er?
Now, you just need to find a great massage therapist. Kimberly gives this advice: “Have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish. Then, ask friends or family for a referral or call a reputable massage school, chiropractic or physical therapy office. Also, check-in with your doctor – they’ll usually have a couple good referrals.”
Well, I’d love to cover 3 or 4 more reasons why you need a massage, but I need to go meet Kimberly for my massage.
Now it’s your turn! Do you have regular massages? Comment and tell us your experience. Are you planning to get one for the first time? Let me know how it goes!