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Combating Stress Through Massage: An Insider’s Guide

Dreaming of a spa day? Your desire for some pampering isn’t just a form of unnecessary indulgence- it can also make you healthier. As it turns out, getting a massage has plenty of benefits for you besides simply making you feel incredible. In a world filled with uncomfortable desk chairs, too little exercise, and constant deadlines, it’s no wonder that stress levels are exploding for almost everyone. Worst of all, this stress is taking a huge toll on your health. In fact, experts estimate that over ninety percent of disease is related to stress in some way. If you’re feeling burdened by the demands of modern society, it might be time to experience some preventable health care in the form of a massage.

When done correctly, massage therapy is a powerful way to improve your health and melt away your anxiety. Over 18% percent of the U.S. population enjoys a massage every year, and if you find yourself on the other side of the equation, the time has come to indulge in a health-benefiting dose of massage therapy for yourself!

What is a Massage Therapy?

Touch is an essential way that our brains pick up information about our environment (think what happens when you rest your hand on a hot stove!) and it’s long been a way that living creatures communicate with each other. Touch is the reason we love petting our cats and dogs, and the reason we go in for a hug when we see our friends in pain.

However, the powers of massage go deeper than a simple sign of affection. As a healing tool, massage has been used around the world for thousands of years. Long ago, healers instinctively picked up that different types of touch can have enormous benefits to our bodies, from treating chronic disease to easing tension and anxiety. Massage is one of the oldest methods of healing on the planet and an accepted treatment form for numerous diseases. Being touched in specific ways provides your body and mind with numerous physical and psychological benefits that act as preventative measures against a host of diseases.

The term “massage therapy” refers to a collection of massage techniques that are used to manually manipulate the soft tissues of the body like muscles and connective tissue. It’s a drug-free, non-invasive way to increase the overall wellness of your body, no matter if you’re a professional athlete or an over-stressed CEO.
man in suit and tie with head down from stress

The Consequences of Stress on Your Health

Would you believe that getting rid of your daily stress might remove 80 to 90 percent of your chronic disease problems? According to experts, this isn’t far from the truth. Chronic stress can take many forms, but it almost always produces physical symptoms that wear you down, like heart palpitations, tension headaches and tired, aching muscles for no reason. It also impacts your mental health by interfering with your memory, focus and even sleep levels. The increased tension in your body makes it easier to act irrationally, which means that stressed out people tend to overeat, avoid exercise, and even yell at loved ones in emotional outbursts.

Chronic stress is a pervasive disease that permeates every part of your life. Aren’t you ready to shed off this burden and live differently?

Yes, a Massage Can Help You Get Your Life Back

In the age of pharmaceutical solutions to every medical problem, massage therapy is a refreshingly simple way to get back on track. Research has long shown the powerful benefits of living a life filled with touch for treating anything from chronic disease to neurological disorders and sports injuries. Even better, massage is a way to meld together your body and mind in an almost meditative state. By making it easier to live in the present moment, massage therapy helps you cast away outside physical and emotional baggage in order to enjoy the now. For this reason, many people come away from massages with a renewed sense of clarity and perspective that allows them to tackle their problems in a different way.

But that’s not all a massage can do for you. Below are some additional benefits of regular massage therapy.

  • Increased circulation throughout your bloodstream, which makes it easier for oxygen and nutrients to make it to muscle fibers and vital organs, allowing them to be restored and healed faster.
  • Stimulation of the lymph nodes to act as the body’s natural defense system against toxic invaders like cancer cells and viral infections.
  • Relaxation of tense, overused muscles. Massage is especially beneficial for people recovering from surgery or in physical therapy.
  • Improved circulation to your skin, which can result in a glowing complexion and a reduction in the signs of aging.
  • Increased releasing of endorphins (natural painkillers) to ease chronic pain.
  • Relief of pain for migraines and tension headaches without depending on medication.
  • Better, deeper sleep, especially immediately after a massage due to the deep relaxation state it puts the body in.

To truly get the maximum benefits of a massage, it’s important to get them in regular doses. Though studies have shown that even fifteen minutes of massage can make a difference, the real benefits come when you get a massage twice a week. We can dream, right?
woman receiving hot stone massage

Which Type Is Best?

That’s an impossible question to answer. There are over 250 types of massage that developed independently all over the world, and each one offers different sensations and benefits. Everyone has different preferences about what feels good, but the massage types listed below are some of the most popular from around the world.

Swedish Massage: As the most popular form of massage word wide, the goal of a Swedish massage is relaxation. They involve stimulating circulation through kneading strokes, deep circular movements and gentle touches to ease away your stress.

Deep Tissue Massage: Used to produce long lasting relief to the layers of muscle located deep under the skin, deep tissue massages are normally used to treat chronic muscular pain and aid rehabilitation after an injury. Forceful strokes are used to target inflamed, damaged muscles.

Sports Massage: A favorite for athletes about to go into action, sports massages warm the body, increase blood flow and even help prevent injuries from occurring.

Prenatal Massage: Specifically geared towards pregnant women, prenatal massages are safe and beneficial for mom and baby both. Usually performed while the expecting mother is on her side, prenatal massages seek to ease pregnancy discomfort, especially in the lower back.

Thai Massage: Traditionally called ‘nuad bo rarn’, Thai massage has been practiced for over 2,500 years and includes a ritualized element. Performed on firm mats rather than beds, this unique massage is almost like performing yoga with the aid of your masseuse. Thai masseuses use their bodies to manipulate their client’s joints and muscles in a variety of ways that often turns into a workout for both.

Hot Stone: Incorporating warmed stones at specific acupuncture points, a hot stone massage utilizes heat to provide relief along with traditional massage techniques in order to get benefits that go deep into the muscle fibers.

Soft Tissue Massage: Developed in Europe to aid injured runners, soft tissue massages work to stretch muscles in specific positions and then gently manipulating them until they move and stretch into a desired position.

Acupressure: Similar to acupuncture, acupressure is an ancient Eastern healing art that uses fingers instead of needles to put pressure on specific parts of the skin. This purportedly opens up energy channels and improves blood flow throughout the body.

Shiatsu: Developed in ancient Japan, Shiatsu is a massage style that focuses on unblocking the flow of energy throughout the body through the use of pressure applied through fingers at certain critical regions of the body.

Craniosacral Therapy: As a gentle method of manipulating the head, shoulders and spinal cord, craniosacral therapy aims to improve the functioning of the central nervous system and remove the negative impacts of stress throughout the back and shoulders.

Reiki: Based on aligning the chakras of universal life energy in order to bring healing, reiki relies less on touch than on the power of intentions as the reiki practitioner creates a channel for life energy to flow freely.

Rolfing: Used for major realignment work in the body, rolfing usually lasts for ten sessions and focuses on using physical manipulation to realign the spine back to vertical.

Best Ways to Book a Great One

If you’re ready to start the journey towards health with regular massages, it’s important to make sure you go to the right person. Allowing someone to mess around with you back muscles is a fairly intimate act, and untrained massage therapists might inadvertently cause you pain, and in some cases even cause long term nerve damage or spinal injuries.

In order to avoid any problems, be sure to ask your doctor or a friend who gets massages regularly which massage therapist they recommend. Because most states regulate massage therapists through licensing and certification, you can check the credentials of your massage therapist before you commit. Don’t be afraid to ask to see their certification or to hear about their training and experience. Most massages aren’t cheap, so it pays off to pay attention to who you commit to in order to ensure your massage is money well spent.

In Summary

It pays to invest in you. Getting a massage is a great way to get rid of your daily stress and even reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases later in life. Far from an unnecessary luxury, regular massages are a smart way to stay in top shape in order to live a healthier, happier life. But be warned; it only takes one appointment before you’ll be hooked on the body boosting benefits of therapeutic massages for life.

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