Massage Therapy: What You May Not Know

Most people have a general idea about massage therapy: usually people know it involves oil and a massage table and some disrobing to varying degrees. Some will think it has to be performed to new age music, and others expect a heated table, stones or hot towels. Certain individuals believe there has to be a certain level of pain involved in the experience for it to provide any “gains” in the way of results. 

When we consider it, touch is the most natural and immediate response to any injury. What do we do if we stub our toe or knock our elbow on a door jam? Immediately we say (shout), “Ouch!” and possibly some more colorful accompanying words and we often reach out to the area that is hurt with an available hand.

It is only really since the last half of the last century that massage therapy has even been practiced in medical settings in the United States, while massage is an integral part of both the medicine of Ayurveda (East Indian system of healing) and Oriental (from countries in the Orient, such as but not limited to China, Japan, Korea, Thailand) Medicine and has been practiced for literally thousands of years.

It has taken many years for allopathic medicine to recognize the Mind-Body connection that is now a fairly common understanding in our society. Yet this mind-body-spirit connection has been experienced and taught in many Eastern cultures for generations.

As a result of this broadening perspective in the West, many of our medical practitioners and the general public are often able to see more clearly now how stress can manifest into physical illness and often massage is used as a means to relax. What a gift massage can offer in this capacity! But wait… there’s so much more!!!

Did you know that massage can also help move the lymph around the body? Your lymph is a small but crucial network of vessels carrying lymphatic fluid around the body, which includes cells that fight off infections from invasive organisms of all kinds. You’ve perhaps heard of swollen lymph nodes? This can happen when the body is under attack by a system of invasive organisms, such as bacteria or virus, and the body’s immune system is on high alert, sending specialized immune cells to areas to fight off that infection. Lymph is moved by muscle movement and contraction. It does not have a system to pump fluid around the body. So movement of these delicate structures and the fluid therein can be crucial to our overall health. Exercise can help in this regard as can massage. 

Massage is actually a key element in your overall health and fitness program…or you will definitely want it to be. It assists with muscle recovery and developing stronger and more toned muscles. It can assist with posture — evidence suggests that postural issues can lead to nervous system dysfunction at varying degrees. In fact this is the basis of chiropractic and craniosacral work — to ease postural distortions or constrictions in the physical structure in order to ease the signaling of nerve impulses to and from the brain.

Digestive distress can also be eased by massage therapy in a number of ways. Here again, we assist the body in muscle movement and easing constriction and flow for the system to function properly. 

When our system is in flow, we have healthy immune systems, healthy posture and muscle tonicity, healthy nervous systems and brains, healthy digestive systems, and all of these can also affect your endocrine or hormone system, your respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as healthy elimination. 

So why doesn’t everyone get massages all the time? Well, many people look at massage as a luxury item, rather than a critical part of their health and fitness routine. Ask anyone who gets regular massage, though, and they will tell you what a difference it makes in their life. 

How can you add more massage into your health and wellness program, you ask? I suggest getting a professional massage from a qualified and Licensed Massage Therapist once a month to every six weeks for most people. If you are extremely active or less active than normal, I would probably recommend massage therapy even more frequently to address more specific lifestyle concerns. 

What if you don’t have the money for this? I suggest massage therapy as often as is possible for you. Some massage therapists (like yours truly) offer discounts if you purchase a package of several sessions and many bodyworkers have sliding scale fees. Some salons or spas with massage therapy services offer monthly membership packages. Seek out these services and ask what might be possible within your budget. Sometimes just reflexology work can have profound and meaningful effects on your entire system and carry a smaller price tag.

Also remember that not all massage therapists are the same. The general idea may be similar but level of skill, intuition and perception can vary wildly. Find someone who works well with your body and system and don’t be afraid to ask for what your body needs. I believe strongly in this part: it’s your body and in most cases your money (or at least your gift certificate), so your massage should be for YOU, not for the massage therapist providing the service. You wouldn’t let the person painting your house pick their own color, so don’t let a massage therapist pick ANYTHING about your treatment. Some therapists may not have the skills or experience to comply with your request, but that should be communicated clearly. 

In addition, you can do self-massage on a weekly or even daily basis. Use a high quality food grade oil, like olive, sesame or coconut oils to ease tension in your body or pay attention to your legs and feet — areas we often take for granted. You can blend in some Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils that help you relax or that ease tension or have other therapeutic effects, depending on your needs. Consider this one of your easiest and most nurturing forms of self-care. 

In these busy times, take time to connect with your body and integrate all of your life and experiences through expert bodywork. Loving yourself and your body for everything that it enables you to do, everywhere you can go, every action you can take, and all the myriad other ways it supports you, can have profound effects, as you might imagine. I’ve yet to meet a body-mind-spirit who didn’t benefit from therapeutic touch.

A well loved body can spread love in the world. LET love lead, my friends.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below or email me.