Massage therapy provides an array of health benefits and has a positive impact on your physical and emotional well-being. There has been a lot of research proving the benefits of massage therapy in preventing and treating conditions ranging from anxiety to arthritis.

Registered massage therapists use their knowledge of anatomy and physiology in combination with specific treatment modalities and techniques to help their clients. Generally, massage therapy involves manipulation of the body’s soft tissues including muscles, connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, and joints.

Two major benefits of massage are relaxation and pain relief. If you are experiencing problems in these areas, read on to see how massage therapy could be right for you:

Relaxation

When your body is stressed, hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released which contribute to the “fight or flight” response. This is what causes your heart to beat faster, blood pressure to rise, and muscles to tighten in stressful situations. This is beneficial in the short term – it will help you focus, heighten your senses, and give you strength and stamina – but detrimental when it becomes chronic.

Chronic stress can lead to, or exacerbate, many physical and emotional symptoms including heart disease, pain, autoimmune disorders, anxiety, and depression. For example, your muscles become tense to guard against injury and pain. As you can imagine, chronically tense muscles lead to many problems like migraines, jaw pain and exacerbate issues such as arthritis and sciatica. There are also many emotional responses to stress; you may begin to feel easily overwhelmed, distracted, anxious, and depressed.

 

How does massage help you relax?

 

Helps counter the physical stress response

  • Reduces cortisol levels
  • Decreases heart rate and blood pressure
  • Relieves muscle and tissue tension

Positively impacts your emotional state

  • Increases levels of “feel good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine
  • Strengthens your mind-body connection and sense of self-awareness
  • Soothes and calms through the environment (quiet, music or aromatherapy) and touch

Pain Relief

Massage therapy is also a great natural way to relieve pain. Many studies have shown that massage is effective in reducing pain caused by various conditions including cancer, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and lower back pain (LBP). Evidence-based practice guidelines [1] indicate that massage therapy is effective at providing pain relief for individuals with sub-acute and chronic LBP, a condition that affects many North Americans.  

How does massage help relieve pain?

 

Reduces inflammation

  • Relieves tension around joints, improving comfort and range of motion
  • Decreases swelling around nerves, can relieve “pinching”
  • Mimics anti-inflammatory medicine such as Aspirin [2]

Improves lymph and blood circulation

  • Decreases swelling in extremities
  • Helps keep joints lubricated
  • Speeds up wound healing
  • Increases efficiency of oxygen and nutrient delivery to tissues

Improves sleep

  • Pain interferes with sleep, which in turn negatively impacts immune and cognitive functions and the body’s ability to heal
  • Research shows massage therapy can reduce fatigue and improve sleep

Positively impacts your body’s biochemistry

  • Affects circulating hormone levels
  • Lowers substance P (important in pain perception) levels

 

Massage therapy provides many mind and body benefits and can play a key part in promoting relaxation and pain relief.  Integrating massage into your wellness toolkit might be just the thing you need!