The Benefits of Massage Therapy

By , SparkPeople Blogger
What do you think of when you hear the word "massage"? Does it conjure up thoughts of a day out with your girlfriend at a swanky spa? Unlike days gone by, massages are becoming quite popular among athletes and non-athletes alike.

Until this past July, I was one of the few people who had never had a massage. When I developed a pain in my buttocks from a tight piriformis muscle from running and working tirelessly for weeks to get the muscle to loosen and the knots to release via stretching, foam rollers, etc, my running coach encouraged me to have a deep tissue sports massage.

At that point I was willing to try just about anything. So I headed to my gym’s spa the following day to see what could be done. To tell you the truth I am not a touchy person; even people standing too close to me can make me a little uncomfortable. To say my nerves were a little shaky is an understatement.

Once my initial fears of touching had passed, I was good to go. And WOW, what a difference an hour makes. While I was quite sore the day of, as well as following day, my tight piriformis finally released, and thankfully I have had no problems since. I just wondered why it took me so long!

What are some of the benefits to massage therapy

New research indicates that message therapy can do more than provide than nice relaxation. It can also
  • Speed muscle repair and recovery.
  • Release stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase range of motion
  • Increase joint flexibility
  • Increase release of endorphins
  • Increase blood circulation

These are just a few of the many benefits of massage. But there are certain individuals who should not have massage therapy. These include:

  • People with a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • People who take blood thinners
  • People with a recent history of a heart attack
  • People who have a history of damage blood vessels
  • Anyone running a fever
  • Anyone with nerve damage, open wounds, burns, and or fractures or healing fractures
  • Those undergoing cancer treatments (unless given clearance from their doctor)
  • Pregnant women (unless given clearance from a doctor and done by a therapist certified in pregnancy massage)

If you are not too sure if you are a candidate for massage therapy, it is always best to call your health care provider and get clearance prior to your initial session.

There are many different kinds of message therapies. These include:

  • Swedish Massage Therapy is one of the most popular forms of massage. The therapist uses long, gentle, smooth strokes with superficial kneading and circulating movements to relax the muscles. This is very good for relaxation and release of tension.

  • Deep Tissue Therapy is slower than the Swedish massage and targets the deeper layers of the muscles. The therapist works at breaking down deep adhesions working across the grain of the muscle to help break down the knots. At times it can be quite uncomfortable so be sure to let your therapist know if it is too uncomfortable for you.

  • Sports Massage is a type of deep tissue massage that generally focuses on the area of interest for the athlete receiving the massage (i.e. my piriformis issue). It helps speed recovery and repair muscle damage as well as releasing and breaking the knots/adhesions within the muscle.

  • Hot Stone Massage Therapy is when the therapist uses hot, flat stones for their therapy. The stones can be placed on various key points of the body or used as a means of helping relax the muscles.

While there are many more benefits than those listed above and many other forms known other than the ones I highlighted, adding a massage to my overall health and fitness plan is one of the best things I have done. Unfortunately, I allowed my reluctance and intimidation to keep me from going sooner, but now that I know the great benefits of such therapy, trust that I will return.

Have you ever had a massage, if so what kind? Do you feel they helped? Are they worth the money? If you haven’t had one, why?