by: Kellie Franklin
Insufficient sleep can result in depression, anxiety, or physical discomfort. Depression and anxiety can interfere with sleep and can cause physical discomfort. Physical pain can interfere with sleep and can result in depression or anxiety, which can cause more physical discomfort. See a pattern?
Massage therapy can break this cycle by increasing dopamine and serotonin, our feel-good neurotransmitters, and decreasing cortisol, our primary stress hormone. In an annual survey conducted nationwide July 2015, 52% of clients report that they seek massage therapy for medical reasons in addition to the 33% of clients who report using it for mental health, such as relaxation and stress management.
A whopping 91% of clients agree that massage therapy is effective in reducing pain, and 72% believe massage should be regarded as a form of healthcare. Based on the body of research on the efficacy of massage therapy, it should be strongly recommended for pain management. In July 2015 alone, 51 million Americans asked their doctors about the benefits of massage, with 69% of physicians STRONGLY recommending massage therapy to their patients.
Chiropractors and physical therapists will also refer you to a massage therapist when your soft tissue needs work–muscles can be so tight or dysfunctional that adjustments, stretches, and exercises are moot. Additionally, massage therapy can address our fascia (connective tissue in our bodies), which is a common source of widespread pain–fibromyalgia, anyone?
Massage builds trust and can often be the first time for a client’s body to completely relax and be receptive to touch without fear of being hurt. Alcohol, nicotine, and illegal drug abuse can often be a way for a person to avoid the emotions or physical pain from previous trauma. Our muscle tissue, fascia, and skin can store traumas, physical and emotional, much the way a scar denotes a prior injury.
Therapeutic touch can connect the mind and body, tapping into the neuroplasticity of the brain, allowing for rewiring. Some people tense at the touch of others but can be rewired to perceive touch as healing rather than damaging. While massage therapy is no substitute for proper medical care, massage can facilitate healing in a way that permits self-soothing behaviors and even some medications to be reduced.
Massage therapists understand the stress-disease connection more than physicians who rarely touch patients; we feel the tension with our hands and provide immediate therapy where it is needed. I offer self-care techniques for my clients because I can only help so much and so often, and it is ultimately up to the client to maintain or improve circumstances between sessions. Incorporating massage therapy into your life is a more holistic approach to balancing your physical and emotional well-being.
Recently, one of my regular clients with arthritis said, “I think my water aerobics have made my muscles stronger, and with regular massage I’m doing pretty well with pain management.”
My own business offers chair massage service to businesses around town. One owner commented, “They (employees) only smile this much when you show up,” which I think expresses the therapeutic value of massage very well. Some things are a bit ineffable, and you just have to experience massage for yourself.
Research has shown that massage can: :
- alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and addiction
- decrease stress hormones
- decrease heart rate and blood pressure
- strengthen the immune system
- improve pain management, including arthritis and surgical pain
- improve range of motion
- assist the healing process of soft tissue after injury or surgery
- improve scar tissue; reduce pain, itching, and scar characteristics
- relieve muscle fatigue and pain
- improve quality of sleep
- increase circulation
- prevent injury
- improve quality of life
Kellie Franklin, Co-owner, Intuitive Therapeutic Massage