You already know that a massage feels good. It helps you relax and calms your mind. But are there more health benefits to a massage than just relaxation? Of course there are. In fact, there are many more. Whether you are getting a popular Swedish massage, an invigorating deep-tissue massage, or a soothing hot-stone massage, there are ample health benefits to be had. Here are just a few of the proven health benefits that massage has to offer:
Ease Anxiety and Depression – When you have a mental illness like anxiety or depression, healing is a full-body process. While medications may help, you also need to be proactive against your condition with other natural methods. Massage is a great way to naturally relieve depression and anxiety. It can actually reduce your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) by as much as 50%. In addition, massage can boost your serotonin and dopamine levels, which directly impacts how severe your depression is.
Improve Sleep – Yes, it is very easy to fall asleep while you are getting massaged, but the benefits to your sleep extend far beyond the time your massage is over. While all massages can help you sleep better, a Swedish massage is particularly helpful. It directly affects your body’s delta waves, which control how deep of a sleep your body can get into.
Eliminate Pain – If you are suffering from any back or neck injuries, massage may be just what the doctor ordered. Neuromuscular therapy massage and deep-tissue massage are especially great at relieving pain. Even though they are not as relaxing as you are getting them, the massage techniques used can release muscle stiffness and reduce your pain. In fact, a massage has been proven to be just as effective as medications and acupuncture at decreasing soreness. Some specific types of pain that massage is ideal for include tension headaches, back pain, and osteoarthritis.
Increase Alertness – Yes, massage can improve your sleep, but it can also make you more alert and improve your mental clarity. The Touch Research Institute actually did a study where people took a test, received a 15-minute chair massage, and then had to re-take the same test. After the massage, the participants were able to think faster and answered more questions correctly.
Boost Immunity – If you are still not convinced that a massage is much more than a luxury item, how about the fact that it can boost your immunity? Yep, it actually does so in two different ways. First off, it increases the strength of your white blood cells, helping them to more effectively fight off infection. Secondly, it simply keeps your body operating as it should by reducing stress. Shiatsu massage is a great choice for this because in addition to soothing strokes it uses acupressure to target specific areas.
Improve Physical Appearance – Since massage increases the blood flow in you body, it can almost instantly improve your skin’s appearance. It will make your skin appear fully and brighter in a matter of seconds. On top of that, if your scalp is massaged, you hair can become shinier over time.
How often should I get a massage?
Now that you realize just how amazing massage can be for you, you are probably wondering how often you need to get a massage to enjoy all of these great benefits. Unfortunately, that answer is not one size fits all. There are many variables involved that determine how often you need to get a massage. If you are suffering from an injury or trying to resolve a chronic issue, you may need as much as one massage per week. On the other hand, if you are otherwise healthy, once a month may be the perfect amount for you. Only you and your masseuse can determine the right schedule for your needs.
The great thing about massages is that one treatment makes the next one better. However, if you wait too long between massages, you will have to start at square one every single time. That is why most professionals recommend getting a massage at least once per month. If you think you cannot afford it, you might want to check with your health insurance. Since massages do have so many astounding health benefits, more and more insurance companies are starting to offer massage coverage. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you can get a massage for a small copay.
How do I choose a masseuse?
Unfortunately, not all massage therapists are created equal. Since massage is a skill that requires talent, it doesn’t really matter where someone received their education, as long as they have it. Of course, you will want to look for a masseuse that is licensed and certified in your state. After that, you simply have to use your best judgment. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction:
- Expertise Matters – When massage therapists have been practicing massage for a while, they perfect their skills and become experts in their trade. This is not to say that newbies will not give you a good massage, it just means that they have a lot more potential that they need to build upon. You want to go to someone who has already reached his/her full potential.
- Ask Around – When you are just starting out looking for a masseuse, your friends and family may be your best resources. Chances are one of them have received a mind-blowing massage and would love to share their source. Just keep in mind that a good massage is very subjective, so what your neighbor loves, you may hate.
- Avoid Hype – Almost every massage therapist out there will promise you the best massage of your life. Obviously, not all of them can deliver on this promise. Don’t fall for the standard marketing lines. Instead, stick to customer reviews and experience when deciding on your massage therapist.
Even after following all of these tips, there is no guarantee that you will get a good massage therapist. Sometimes you just have to try them out one at a time. Never settle for an average massage, because there is a masseuse out there that will give you a life-changing one. Massage does have many health benefits, but it is also a way to de-stress and reset your mind. It is important that you find a masseuse that you look forward to going to. When you leave, you should feel like it was the best money you ever spent, and you should be counting the days until you get to go again.
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About the author: Gary Hamilton is president and founder of InteliChart, a health information technology company connecting healthcare organizations, providers, patients, and their communities through integrated solutions. InteliChart’s portal solutions for patients allows people to take an active role in their own health, something Gary loves to help people with. Connect with InteliChart on Twitter and Facebook.