Five benefits of massage that help you take control of your health and well-being
1. Relieve Stress, improve mood, reduce headaches, ease chronic pain
Run from the tiger! Ok, so there’s good and bad stress and a certain amount helps us to get things done. We need to be able to react to situations and our sympathetic system kicks in when we have to act fast, and need energy to get a job done, or run away from a threat … like a tiger. The adrenaline and cortisol released during moments of stress boosts your heart rate and blood sugar, while diverting energy away from your digestion and immune responses. These reactions have helped humans to evolve and survive and in themselves are all good, if we only go hunting once a day!
The tiger is waiting! Trouble in the modern world, we subject ourselves to a constant barrage of perceived threats, with workloads that never get easier, deadlines to meet, bosses to please, no clear boundaries between work and home, bills to pay, and then nothing but bad news in the media. It feels like the tiger is always waiting outside, and this means our body stay ready in sustained ‘fight or flight’ stress and over time affects our mental and physical health with a range of problems. This includes changes in behaviour, negative mood, anxiety, lack of sleep, and results in physical symptoms such as headaches, back aches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, and all sorts of chronic pain issues. Constantly elevated levels of cortisol that occur when you are continually stressed, raise blood sugars and can contribute to the development of diabetes and heart disease. Constant stress ages you!
But, how about we get rid of the tiger, at least for a while! Massage triggers a range of responses that help manage stress, resulting in feelings of relaxation, reduced stress, mental alertness and improved mood. During a massage, your body increases its production of ‘feel-good’ endorphins, and chemicals, serotonin and dopamine. Massage also decreases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, allowing your body to relax and allow the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ system to help you recover. Regular massage improves your overall health by keeping these stress hormones at bay, reducing anxiety, encouraging a good night’s sleep and helping address issues such as high blood pressure, which in turn can lower risks of heart attack and stroke.
2. Improved posture
‘Sitting is the new smoking’ – I expect you’ve heard this. Most of us spend too much time sitting these days. Add up how many hours a day you spend walking, running, doing yoga or whatever keeps you moving. Now how many hours you spend sitting. It’s also the way we sit – our posture. Hunching over lap-tops, especially now more people work from home. Driving a car, looking at your phone. The thing is our bodies are clever, too clever. If you want to sit in these positions, your body, more-so your fascia, helps you out. It tries to make your life easier. The fascial tissue thickens and adapts and becomes dehydrated and immobile. You try and correct your posture – and it feels wrong.
Massage helps by hydrating the tissues and allow them to glide and move how they are supposed to. It also relieves contracted areas in the muscles and tissues. By improving your range of movement, you can move into more natural posture. Regular massage, along with looking for ways to improve your sitting position and encouraging movement can help to decrease back and shoulder pain significantly
3. Improve breathing
When we are stressed and anxious our breathing reacts by becoming shallow and constricted. Because massage helps trigger your parasympathetic system this helps slow and deepen your breathing. Along with working on breathing exercises (something I often do) this helps to regulate our response to stress. Being able to find way to relax our breathing also helps with other responses to stress, such as feelings of chest tightness, shoulder pain, digestion issues and headaches.
4. Enhanced exercise performance and recovery
Muscle pain and stiffness is common when you start a new exercise or do a lot more than you’re used to. Exercise causes micro-tears in muscle fibres, leading to inflammation, which the body repairs and over time the body gets stronger. Massage reduces the production of cytokines which are pro-inflammatory – thereby reducing the duration and intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness. It also stimulates the mitochondria which convert glucose to energy- essential in the repair process
Massage also helps treat sports injuries and post-surgery, increasing fluid flow and hydrating tissues and decreasing adhesions and fibrotic tissue build up – so maintaining range of movement. Specifically, massage can be used to help scar tissue from surgery as well. Regular massage can be used by anybody who exercises regularly to improve performance, speed-up post-exercise recovery, improve soft tissue function, improve flexibility and range of movement and help prevent injury.
5. Boost immunity
If sustained for too long, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, suppress our immune system, leaving our bodies more vulnerable to infection and making it more difficult for the body to recover. Massage offers relaxation and stress relief and research suggests that regular massage naturally increases the healthy immune system’s ability to kill certain cells, while decreasing the number of T-cells, which improves the body’s immune function overall.
Massage also relieves pain, which has been shown to suppress the immune system and increases susceptibility to infection.
So now that you know more about the benefits of massage and you can see how it can help you take control of your health and wellbeing, isn’t it time you booked your appointment?