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Category: Male Masseur London Blog (page 1 of 6)

Benefits Of Regular Massage

Most people love to get a massage only because it feels good. There’s no better way to pamper yourself than allowing someone to melt away the day’s tension with the touch of their hands.

But as it turns out, getting regular massages has real health benefits as well. Massage can improve your mood and even help your body fight off colds and the flu better.

Here’s a look at five benefits of massage that may also come as a bit of a surprise.

It Reduces Anxiety and Depression

Several studies have shown that massage can help people of all ages with depression and anxiety.

One of the reasons why massage can feel so soothing is because it helps the body release dopamine, a chemical associated with feelings of pleasure.

In one study, pregnant women who were depressed and received massage therapy for 16 weeks reported lower levels of anxiety and depressed mood. They also had higher levels of dopamine and serotonin, and lower levels of cortisol and norepinephrine—two stress hormones.

Boosts Your Immunity System

It turns out that getting regular massages may help make your body resist infections better.

In 2010, researchers at Cedars-Sinai found that people who received Swedish massages experienced a significant bump in their white blood cell count. White blood cells, also called leukocytes, help us fight off infections and illnesses.

At the same time, their blood samples showed a drop in the stress hormone cortisol, something that can compromise the immune system. While massages do not replace getting the flu shot, regular massage therapy can give your immune system a helping hand.

Helps You Sleep Better

Massage helps you relax and as mentioned, causes your body to release serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with calmness and sleep.

And as massage helps ease pain (see number four below), it can help those with chronic pain get some relief for a better night’s rest.

For The Pain
Massage eases pain in many ways. It improves circulation so blood can help achy areas heal faster, and it also helps the body release endorphins that act as a natural pain reducer.

A massage loosens up sore muscles and tendons and makes the body feel more supple.

When over 1,200 cancer patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center received a massage, their chronic pain, nausea, and anxiety related to their illness and treatments decreased by 50%.

Benefits of Monthly Massage #5: It Counteracts Sitting For Long Periods

If you sit at your job for several hours at a time, you may begin to experience back, shoulder, and neck pain from being hunched over at a computer.

Regular massages including chair massage can help counteract the effects of sitting all day, including the pain and poor posture associated with it.

In addition to a regular massage, there are many exercises you can do at work while standing to help improve your posture.

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Fibromyalgia – condition that causes pain in different places in your body.

fibromyalgiaFibromyalgia (FM) affects more than 3 million people every year. This chronic condition causes widespread muscle pain and increased sensitivity to stimuli that often lead to pain and difficulty sleeping, among other symptoms. Treatment is varied, but some of the current research indicates that massage therapy can be effective in helping to relieve some of the discomfort.

But FM is a complex disorder, and so working with clients who have FM is no different than working with clients with other chronic or pre-existing health conditions: you need to have a better-than-average understanding of how the condition affects the client, as well as when massage therapy can be helpful. Following, you will find information on what recent research is saying about FM and the role massage therapy can play in helping people better deal with some of the symptoms.
What is Fibromyalgia?

im212112Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain and tenderness. Other common symptoms associated with FM include fatigue, tension headaches, cognitive difficulties and irritable bowel syndrome.

Interestingly, more of the research on FM is starting to suggest that the condition is actually a central nervous system disorder, even though muscle pain is one of its primary symptoms. More specifically, evidence points to the idea that FM is a disorder of central nervous system pain processing pathways instead of a primary auto-immune disorder of the peripheral tissue, as once believed.1 “There were studies that showed the association between stressors and FM,” explains Stephen Perle, Professor of Clinical Sciences at Bridgeport University. “For example, fMRI has shown that people with FM, when exposed to non-painful stimuli, have activation of the brain in areas that are normally activated only by painful stimuli.”

Accordingly, central nervous system involvement may explain why people with FM are often hypersensitive to all sorts of stimuli, not just mechanical pressure or touch. Dr. Michael Schneider, Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of multiple studies on FM, provides more insight: “The classic fibromyalgia patient just isn’t tender to the touch and can’t submit to mechanical pressure,” he explains. “They’re sensitive to light, sound, multiple food allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities, and they don’t tolerate heat and cold real well.”

Who Develops Fibromyalgia?

The short answer to this question is that women are much more likely than men to develop fibromyalgia—but it is more complicated than that. The likelihood that someone will develop FM isn’t well-known, but there are two variables that seem to be related: genetics and personal trauma. Genetics is fairly straightforward. FM tends to run in families.

Trauma, however, is a bit more complex. There seems to be a link between FM and post-traumatic stress disorder, though one does not necessarily cause the other. A 2001 study of 600 participants with FM showed “an extremely high prevalence of past emotional, physical and/or sexual trauma associated with the onset of FM symptoms.”2 Schneider’s review of the FM research literature suggests that the connection between personal trauma and FM may be that trauma often causes a person’s limbic system to go into overdrive, contributing to the central nervous system hypersensitivity. Remember, not everyone with FM is going to have experienced trauma, but you should keep the possibility in mind when working with clients with this condition. “There’s a high association with trauma, and people need to be aware of that when they’re treating these patients,” says Schneider.

Treatment for Fibromyalgia

There is no one pill or treatment that cures fibromyalgia or even relieves all of the symptoms, so many people with FM deal with this condition using multiple approaches. Most will likely be taking medication prescribed by their primary care physician, so be sure you do a thorough intake and understand how any medication they are taking may affect the massage therapy session. Remember that for these clients, self-care is crucial to being able to better control the major symptoms of FM. Therefore, focus on how massage therapy can help them reduce stress, for example, or get better sleep.

Along with massage therapy, these clients may be using other complementary approaches, such as acupuncture and yoga. When combined, Schneider sees real benefit from both traditional and complementary treatment. “These patients are best treated with a team approach,” he says.

Massage Therapy and Fibromyalgia

Of all the alternative therapies available, more and more research is showing that massage therapy provides real benefits to people dealing with a number of health conditions, including fibromyalgia. A study in 2011 showed that massage therapy caused reductions in sensitivity to pain at tender points in patients with FM, as well as lowering anxiety levels and increasing quality of sleep. Another study from 2014, which systematically reviewed nine other studies about massage therapy and FM, found that massage therapy had immediate beneficial effects on improving pain, anxiety and depression in patients with FM.

According to this same study, massage therapy is particularly effective when it is administered to soft and connective tissues because this improves muscle flexibility, as well as modulating local blood and lymph circulation.4

There is not one specific technique that is more effective with FM than others, although myofascial release has been shown to be somewhat helpful. “To new massage therapists who would like to work with FM clients, I would tell them to fill their proverbial tool box with as many techniques as they can,” says Joseph Swinski, a massage therapist from Rhode Island who regularly works with clients with chronic conditions such as FM. “When working with the FM population, it is not one size fits all.”

For many clients, using the right amount of pressure is going to be imperative, so it is important to clearly communicate with the client both before and during the session and adjust when necessary. Remember that deep pressure will likely be too much for these clients. “If they’re hypersensitive, then the idea is you’re going to have to go really light with them and kind of coddle that client and be a little more gentle with them,” says Schneider. This idea holds true for all aspects of the massage session. “Speak in a lower voice to them, and that person’s going to like the dim room with some nice relaxing music,” he adds.

Flexibility is also a key ingredient to success when working with people with FM. “The most important thing I could hope to impress on a new massage therapist working with a client with FM is to be patient, not in a hurry and as observant as possible during the actual session,” says Erika Crisafulli, a massage therapist with the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. “Be compassionate. We all know what it is like to deal with physical ailments that we cannot get a hold of on our own.” Crisafulli knows this better than most, as she herself has had to deal with symptoms of FM. “Trying to control the symptoms so you can still live a full life is challenging, but not impossible if you are willing to help yourself,” she says. “It is so important to practice what you preach. If I don’t take care of myself, how in the world can I take care of my clients, something I love to do so much?”

Checking in with a client after a massage therapy session is also a good idea, and that sometimes means following up a few days later. “You may need to change your approach to massage after the first visit,” says Swinski. “This is why I contact my clients after the massage. If the results were not what we expected, I reassure them that there are other approaches that we could take in their next visit.” Again, you need to be aware that clients with FM are going to have different needs. What works for some may not work for others, so listen and be willing to adjust the massage therapy session when appropriate.

Although FM is a complex condition, research is showing there are a variety of ways massage therapy can help clients feel better. From better sleep to reduced stress, massage therapy is showing real promise in helping people better handle the symptoms of FM.

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Massage Therapy ‘for those who work with computers and tablets every day’

massageThere’s no doubt that technology has been a huge boon for many people. But, there are downsides to technology as well, particularly for those who work with devices such as computers and tablets every day. Repetitive use injuries and other conditions that lead to chronic pain are increasingly common and cause a variety of symptoms that can take a toll.

Common workplace problems that massage therapy can help relieve
Carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome are two issues that people in an office setting may face and with these conditions come a variety of symptoms that massage therapy can help relieve pain being but one. “Pain, fatigue, weakness, and stiffness in the affected areas are the most common symptoms of these injuries,”
Along with overuse, poor posture being the cause of painful conditions affecting the neck, shoulders and back. For example, a forward head posture can lead to neck pain as the person unconsciously reaches forward with the head to better see the screen. Additionally, improper posture can sometimes be the result of other conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. Sometimes, improper posture occurs because the body is trying to find a comfortable position.

How Massage Can Help?

Massage therapy is proving beneficial in helping clients with chronic pain find relief and some of these conditions are no different. Massage therapy can help reduce postural imbalances, nerve entrapment, inflammation in the tissues, and trigger points and their referrals. In addition, massage therapy can address the symptoms caused by nerve compression if the nerve compression is due to improper posture.
For example, massage therapy being beneficial for clients who may have a hemipelvis imbalance that might cause back discomfort and pain, or those whose forward head posture is contributing to neck and upper back pain. A shortening of the anterior musculature in the abdomen and chest that causes back pain can also benefit from massage, as can shortened pronators of the forearms that might be causing forearm, wrist and hand pain.

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Massage Helps Calm Down Body and Mind

While stress is a normal part of everyday life, it may be more difficult to manage if you’re struggling with mental illness. The body reacts to stress by releasing hormones like adrenaline, dopamine, and cortisol, which prepare your body for a flight or fight response.

When you’re lying in bed, however, these hormones are far less useful than they may have been thousands of years ago when your body was preparing to fight a bear. Cortisol is the last thing you want surging through your system when you’re trying to sleep. Melatonin, on the other hand, is the hormone associated with sleep and helps calm a busy mind.

A massage promotes a sense of wellbeing that triggers serotonin in the brain, which helps facilitate the production of melatonin.

Getting adequate rest can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, giving you the energy to exercise, eat right and take care of yourself throughout the day.

Many people who do not have mental health issues or a sleep disorder may still struggle to sleep under certain circumstances. A new environment can make sleep challenging even for those who typically rest easily, experiencing what scientists refer to as “the first night effect.”

This reaction occurs as the body physiologically gears up to respond to any potential threat in an unfamiliar place. Studies show that while sleeping in an unfamiliar surrounding, a region within the left hemisphere of the brain remains alert and prepared to react to the environment.

While the first night effect is clearly seen when traveling to a new place, it also helps explain why it may be difficult to sleep during transitional phases of life, like starting a new job, a divorce or having a babyIf you’re staying at a hotel that has a spa, book a massage to help you rest better at night.

You’ll be able to better enjoy your vacation or find yourself more productive on a work trip when you’ve had a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

Better Sleep and Faster Healing
When you’re physically uncomfortable, due to illness, injury, pregnancy for any other reason, it can make it difficult to get enough rest. Massage relaxes the muscles, tendons, and joints and helps the body manage its neurological response to pain.

When you’re in less pain, you’re likely to sleep better, and when you sleep better, your physical health improves. A good night’s rest will give the energy to exercise and stretch, which can be beneficial in recovering from a sports-injury or managing arthritis.

Reducing stress through better sleep also helps release tension in the body to mitigate pain and discomfort.

If you’re struggling with insomnia, take time to schedule a massage. Massage can be an important act of self-care, benefiting both your physical and mental health. Poor sleep and stress go hand and hand, and massage can help you deal with both to enjoy a better quality of life.

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Massage Supports Senior Health

pic-who-needsDo you ever wonder who will help keep your body moving around safely as you get older? According to Jo Ellen Sefton and fellow researchers, massage therapists could be key players in maintaining health of older persons, particularly postural control.

This month’s Massage Therapy Foundation article outlines the findings of Sefton’s study that explored the effects of therapeutic massage on balance, neurological and cardiovascular outcomes in older adults. The results of this study were published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork in 2012, and it is the second of a two-part study conducted collaboratively by researchers at Auburn University and Samford University in Alabama.

The risk of falling is a major health concern for older people. Falls in the elderly population impact personal health, affecting patients physically and psychologically and often result in significant healthcare and rehabilitation costs. Decreased mobility due to falls can lead to loss of vitality and increased morbidity.

Sefton and colleagues wanted to explore whether therapeutic massage could restore muscle balance and function, improve appropriate muscle activation, decrease spasms, correct postural imbalances or improve gait and movement confidence. They hypothesized that therapeutic massage would produce an immediate increase in instability, then improve postural stability and decrease cardiovascular measures over time, and improve long-term stability and cardiovascular functioning. Positive changes in these measures may improve confidence and allow for increased independence in older individuals.

The study was conducted in the lab with 35 adults ranging in age from 50 to 69 years old. Participants were excluded if they reported any chronic diseases or medications that would affect the study’s physiological measures. Participants were then randomized to the therapeutic massage treatment group or relaxation control group. The treatment group received six weekly 60-minute full-body massages that followed a standardized protocol, but left some flexibility for the massage therapists to respond to individual patient needs. The relaxation control group rested quietly in the treatment room for 60 minutes.

A number of assessments were conducted on both the therapeutic massage and control groups to test the study hypotheses. Static and functional balance were tested with the participants on one and both feet, and with eyes open and closed. Neurologically, motor neuron pool excitability, activation and modulation at the soleus muscle were assessed. Heart rate and blood pressure were recorded as the cardiovascular measures.

Immediate Treatment Effects

Assessments of postural control and cardiovascular measures were completed before the treatment, and then immediately after, 20 minutes after and 60 minutes post-treatment. Nervous system measures were completed pre-treatment and then 60 minutes post-treatment. The purpose of these tests was to determine whether the therapeutic massage intervention produced increased instability for participants immediately after.

The results replicated the researchers’ earlier findings showing that instability did not increase immediately after therapeutic massage. This implies that current cautionary measures implemented for our clients are likely sufficient and should be continued, although some sensitivity with clients who have special circumstances will always occur. Interestingly, the results did not support previous studies that showed therapeutic massage to decrease cardiovascular measures immediately following treatment.

Week Six Short Term Effects

To determine differences that occur during the 60 minutes after a therapeutic massage intervention, balance and cardiovascular measures were assessed immediately post-therapeutic massage to 60 minutes post-therapeutic massage. The results of the balance and postural control measures together suggest an increase in postural stability through the 60-minute period following therapeutic massage when compared to the control group.

Nervous system measures were taken pre- and 60 minutes post-therapeutic massage only. The results again echo the researchers’ earlier work, finding that when compared to only one session of therapeutic massage, an additional six weeks of treatment did not produce better performance on the assessments for the nervous system. The researchers speculated this may be due to decreased fatigue that would occur during each therapeutic massage application.

Cardiovascular measures indicated a trend of decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure from immediate to 60 minutes post-treatment in the treatment group compared to the control. No changes in heart rate were found, and studies thus far have reported conflicting results. This led the researchers to recommend additional research on the mechanisms affecting cardiovascular measures and blood flow.

Long Term Effects

So, what was found one week after the last therapeutic massage session? The long-term treatment effects were assessed by comparing the therapeutic massage and control groups on balance, nervous system and cardiovascular measures pre-treatment at week six with those obtained at the follow-up testing session at week seven. The researchers found some effects to be fairly robust.

Assessment of balance at week six indicated no significant differences between the treatment and control groups. However, by week seven, testing showed significant differences between the therapeutic massage and control groups. This indicates that the treatment group had an improved ability to maintain balance at week seven.

No long term nervous system differences were found between the treatment and control groups, but the authors note there may be some methodological considerations that could be addressed in future work. With respect to cardiovascular effects, although there were no significant differences at week six, there were lower systolic blood pressures in the treatment group by week seven. No differences in diastolic blood pressure were found. Heart rate was higher for the treatment group at week six, but then by week seven, no differences were found when compared to the control group.

The researchers made a couple of observations about the study design that may have impacted research outcomes. First, participants were all healthy older adults who could be considered “young old,” rather than “old old.” Second, results may differ in individuals experiencing conditions common with aging such as osteoarthritis, high blood pressure or diabetes. The researchers also identified some limitations that should be considered when interpreting the findings, specifically that the participants self-selected to join the study. To account for these potential confounding elements, the team recommended a larger study in the future to include a wider range of participants.

As massage therapists see more clients who are aging, it becomes increasingly important to know how to appropriately care for them, and manage the instability that may occur when they get up off the treatment table. Understanding the physiological changes in the client, both immediately and over time, can equip us with information needed to provide good home care instruction.

The results reported by Sefton and colleagues indicate that therapeutic massage could be a beneficial non-pharmaceutical option to improve blood pressure and postural stability in older adults, short and long-term. These findings have implications for practice and policy, from the treatment room to reimbursement. The true impact of research such as Sefton’s will come from replication and dissemination of findings and continued efforts to use research evidence to inform practice guidelines and standards of care.

Resource:

  • Sefton, J. M., Yarar, C., & Berry, J. W. (2012). Six weeks of massage therapy produces changes in balance, neurological, and cardiovascular measures in older adults. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 5 (3), 28-40.
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Massage During The Summer

Of course there’s a lot to do in summer gardening, grilling , traveling, you name it but that does not mean you should not take care of your self. In fact massage is a terrific thing to treat yourself to during the summer months, when your body badly needs it.

Some main reasons to treat yourself to a massage this summer:

Massage is ‘your time’. During summer, plans and activities seem to spike. Hikes, picnics and park trips become the norm. Even if you don’t have any kids and work is still relatively relaxed, most people make more plans in the summer months. A massage is a great excuse to get some time for yourself.

Massage Counteracts Swelling in Joints and Limbs
Summer heat and humidity tends to lead to swelling and discomfort, due to static accumulation of fluids. Massage can help increase blood flow, reduce swelling and make movement more comfortable, even during the height of heat.

Massage Compensates for Increased Exercise
Most people also exercise more in summer, when nice weather makes being outdoors easy. Whether your exercise of choice is gardening or running, swimming or playing organized sports, you’re likely more active this time of year. That’s great, but can lead to strains and pulls if you’re not careful. Massage can help ease pain from problems as well as make them less likely to occur.

Massages Clears Thinking
If you are busy, stressed, overwhelmed massages clear thinking and make it easier for you to stay on top of everything you need to do without feeling stressed out. Even going once every month or two can have major benefits.

Of course, the truth is, any time is a good time to get a massage. Its perks include relaxation, clearer thinking, better decision-making, reduced stress and better sleep.

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Massage can take away depression and anxiety

 

depression and anxiety need male massage therapist in london

Massage therapists use arm, hand, fingertip, and elbow pressure to treat physical and emotional problems. The word massage comes from the Arabic word mass’h, which means “press gently.”  Therapeutic massage was first described in China about 2,500 years ago. Around 400 bc, the Greek healer Hippo crates used massage to treat sprains. Most of the world’s medical systems, including Chinese medicine and India’s Ayurveda, developed their own versions.

Researchers at the University of Miami followed 37 breast cancer patients who received massage therapy or practices progressive muscle relaxation for five weeks. Women in the massage group reported feeling less depressed and angry, and they had more energy. In a University of South Florida study of high blood pressure patients, those who got 10-minute massages three times a week for three weeks lowered their higher number by 11 points.

A review of more than a dozen massage studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine concludes that massage therapy relieves depression and anxiety by affecting the body’s biochemistry. In a series of studies including about 500 men, women, and children with depression or stress problems, researchers measured the stress hormone cortisol in participants before and immediately after massage and found that the therapy lowered levels by up to 53%. (Cortisol can drive up blood pressure and blood sugar levels and suppress the immune system.) Massage also increased serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.

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GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MASSAGE

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DRINK WATER

Massage increases your blood circulation and hydrates your muscle tissues. You know those “wow” moments you have during your massage? They’re signifying blood flowing to areas that have been nutrient deprived and blocked by constricted muscles or trigger points. These “stress spots” are potent and toxic to your body, and require the assistance of water to be flushed out.

Water is the drano our bodies need to flush out lactic acid and metabolic waste that causes knots and pain. When a muscle is dehydrated it searches for a water source, and if it can’t easily get it will cling to another muscle tissue instead.

The simple fact is that massages are dehydrating. Kneading and working muscles gets fluid pumping out of the soft tissue and into your circulatory system, where it heads towards your kidneys. Therefore it’s incredibly important to drink water because not only does it flush toxins out of your system, but it ensures that all the good work your massage does doesn’t go to waste!

STRETCH

Having just had a massage therapist break up the adhesions on your muscles, it’s now up to you to stretch in order to reap the benefits. Stretching essentially works to realign your muscle fibers and improve muscle recovery. It also helps to train your nervous system, which is the main determinator when it comes to your body’s flexibility.

Did you know that a person under anesthesia has virtually full range of motion, even in the case of a serious condition like frozen shoulder? This is because the nervous system, not the muscles, is the great limiter of motion. Keep this in mind as you go through your post-massage stretch routine.

HYDROTHERAPY

The healing properties of hydrotherapy are based on its mechanical and thermal effects. It makes use of the body’s reaction to hot and cold stimuli, the protracted application of heat, the pressure exerted by the water, and the sensation of the water itself.

Nerves carry sensations felt by the skin deeper into the body, where these responses then work to stimulate the immune system, influence the production of stress hormones, encourage blood flow, and improve circulation and digestion. Essentially, enjoying hydrotherapy following a massage prolongs your sense of relaxation, helps to induce a deeper night’s sleep, and encourages greater muscle recovery.

EAT

Massage therapy has a big effect on the body’s circulation and stimulates digestion. If you’re feeling a little light headed post-massage, this might be the result of not eating.

Following a massage your body needs to refuel. For this reason, consider taking a snack to your next appointment, such as a banana and some raw almonds. Ensure you keep meals light, and opt for things such as stir-fried vegetables and rice.

REST

It’s not always possible, but always try to schedule your massage appointments at times when you can relax afterwards. The idea behind this is to prolong your sense of deep relaxation for as long as possible. Listen to your body. If you feel like having a sleep, sleep. If you feel like curling up under a blanket and reading a book, do it. If you want to stretch out on the sofa and watch reruns of The Bachelor, indulge. This is your time to recover, repair and re-tune yourself.

HAVE A BATH

Having a bath will encourage rest, and is particularly nice when Epsom salts are added. Adding Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) will help heal any aches and pains, open up your blood vessels, and increase circulation. A warm shower will suffice if you don’t have a bath. Just remember – the key word here is warm – not cold, and not scorching hot! A super hot bath will increase inflammation, which isn’t a good idea after a massage.

WELCOME ANY EMOTIONS

As your body relaxes, it’s normal for it to release any emotional baggage it’s holding onto. While on one occasion you might feel elated, refreshed and energised, there may be other times when you feel the need to cry. This is okay. Embrace it. Allow it to happen. You’ll appreciate the emotional release afterwards!

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY’S REACTION

While it’s normal to feel a little sore following a massage (think the day after a good gym workout), it’s not normal to feel pain several days after your massage. If your pain is intense and long-lasting, this is a sign your massage therapist may have gone too hard. Make note of any sore areas and inform your therapist during your next visit. This is important so your treatments can be modified to best suit you.

URINATE

And finally… go to the toilet. By urinating you are letting go of your toxins, so what are you waiting for? Get rid of them!

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5 Mental Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

1. Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health issues, and both can negatively impact lives. Studies have shown massage therapist can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Researchers at Taiwan’s E-Da Hospital and College of Medicine reviewed 17 scientific studies involving 786 people. The findings showed massage had many positive benefits for people experiencing depression and led to a reduction in symptoms. At Japan’s Kyushu University, a team of experts found facial massage soothed participants’ physiological distress. They concluded that massage activated participants’ sympathetic nervous system, reducing their anxiety and improving their mood.

Before your next massage, ask your practitioner to help you choose treatments options that address your depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issues.

2. Neurotransmitter and Hormone Balance

Researchers have shown massage therapy activates neurotransmitters that can decrease anxiety and lower stress hormone levels. At the University of Miami School of Medicine, researchers found massage therapy had positive effects on people who were experiencing a range of mental health issues, including depression, eating disorders, and stress. The research team found about a 30% increase in serotonin and dopamine levels in the study participants who underwent massage, as well as a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. These findings suggest massage was responsible for an increase in feel-good neurotransmitters and a decrease in stress.

3. Blood Pressure and Circulatory Issues

A massage therapist can help lower your heart rate as well as your systolic (pumping) and diastolic (resting) high blood pressure.

Researchers compared two groups of 25 women. One group received 10-15 minutes of Swedish massage three times a week for a total of 10 sessions; the women in the other group relaxed in the same environment, but did not receive massages. The researchers found massage caused a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure that persisted for as many as three days after treatment.

A researcher at the University of South Florida studied the effects of back massage on hypertension (high blood pressure) and found blood pressure reductions in study participants who received massage. Those reductions lasted for two days after treatment.

If you experience high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about adding massage therapy to your current course of treatment. Though massage helps many people, it may not be an advised solution for everyone, especially if you have deep-vein thrombosis (blood clots). Make sure to talk to your physician before scheduling a massage appointment.

4. Alleviating Symptoms of Illness or Disease

People with life-threatening illnesses or diseases often experience anxiety and depression that can exacerbate their condition. Massage therapy can greatly increase quality of life, freeing up mental and physiological resources to fight off disease. Many physicians recommend massage as a complementary therapy to medical care for its healing power and low incidence of side effects.

At the Columbia University Medical Center, experts studied children with cancer and found massage therapy helped manage many side effects of cancer treatment, including pain, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and reduced immune function.

A University of Miami research team found study participants with  anxiety, stress, anger, and overall mood issues after receiving massage therapy and learning home care relaxation techniques. The people who were treated by massage therapists had lower norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter linked to depression) levels as compared to a control group.

5. Veterans’ Mental Health

Researchers recently published a paper in the journal Military Medicine describing the reintegration process for National Guard members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The researchers followed service members and their partners for eight weeks as part of a pilot program to develop treatments for returning veterans. They found massage therapy helped veterans relieve pain, irritability, tension, worry, anxiety, and depression.

At the Fort Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center, clinical psychologist John Fortunato puts people experiencing posttraumatic stress through a rigorous and comprehensive regimen of therapies, including different types of massage. These therapies helped veterans turn off their hyperaroused survival mechanisms, learn to relax again, and get the healthy sleep their bodies needed. Of the 37 soldiers in the program, only two had to take medical discharges from service. Twelve of the service members returned to active duty.

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Massage Benefits for Runners

1. Reduced Muscle Pain and Fatigue

When you have started a new training program, increased the intensity of your training or are simply just running more mileage, massage therapy can be extremely helpful. Often times, the increased workload results in muscle pain and fatigue. This pain is caused by the release of body-producing toxins such as lactic acid into the tissue. When left untreated, the tissue can become damaged over time. Where there is muscle damage, there is less circulation. Reduced circulation can lead to congestion, tightness and shortening of the tissue.

2. Increased Circulation and Blood Flow

Massage increases circulation and blood flow. With this increased circulation, overall healing is expedited by triggering the immune system to promote a healing response in the tissue.

Following a run, the body needs to recover from the stresses places upon it. When muscles are challenged during a run, the body releases toxins into the tissue. Massage is one of the quickest ways to promote recovery because it helps release these toxins from the tissue. In conjunction with proper hydration, toxins are flushed from the system, thus helping lessen soreness and fatigue while helping freshen your legs for your next workout.

3. Increased Flexibility

Increasing an athlete’s range of motion can help improve performance. When we can move properly, we can run more efficiently.

A good massage helps rebalance the musculoskeletal system. Runners frequently experience pain and tightness in the IT Band, Achilles tendon, knees and hamstrings. Many runners can pinpoint where they are experiencing pain. A good therapist will evaluate pre-exsiting conditions and postural errors that could be contributing to pain, as the source of pain is usually not where the pain is manifesting itself. For example, pain in the hamstring may be attributed to limited lumbar mobility. The hamstring could be over-stretched and compensating for shortening of the hip flexors. The body is like a weight and pulley system. When a muscle experiences fatigue from overuse, another muscle will kick in to try and bring balance back to the body. Often times, this secondary muscle is not meant to sustain that kind of responsibility. When left untreated, it undergoes strain and, much like a domino effect, other muscles become involved and affected. A good therapist will analyze all these factors and develop an appropriate treatment plan to help break a cycle of recurring injury.

4. Relaxation

Lastly, massage promotes relaxation, which has myriad benefits. Relaxing the muscles also helps relax the mind and reduces stress, which can help re-energize you following a big race or tough workout, or even when the craziness of life combined with the demands of training start to wear on you.

When targeting specific areas, pause and press into the sorest areas for about 10 seconds and then release. Focus on frequently stretching the hip flexors, glutes, quads and calves all important muscle groups for healthy movement.

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