What is Massage Therapy - & How Might it Benefit You?
Written by Bonnie Gabaldon

What is massage therapy?  Massage therapy utilizes methods of manipulating soft body tissues for a variety of therapeutic purposes, health maintenance, and efficient physical performance.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the elderly population is the fastest growing segment of American society.  Along with that growth is the issue of chronic pain.  Eighty percent of all doctor visits are for pain.

Although it is considered by many to be a ‘normal’ part of getting older, that belief is false. Pain is both preventable and treatable.  


Massage is a great preventative measure and the benefits of massage are cumulative over time.

I had my first massage in 1975, but didn’t actually incorporate it into my lifestyle until the 1980s. Over the decades, I personally experienced the relief it offered after strenuous physical activity, and for recovery from injuries. I credit massage as an important element that has contributed to my state of health and fitness.  

Massage Therapy Benefits

Based upon scientific research and numerous reports, we know that massage:

  • diminishes inflammation in the muscles and joints, having both pain-relieving and recovery-promoting effects;
  • relieves stress;
  • prevents or delays muscle soreness after exercise;
  • improves sleep;
  • increases circulation;
  • helps reduce muscle tension;
  • improves lymphatic flow so that toxins are excreted from the body;
  • improves athletic performance;
  • increases muscle tone; and
  • increases range of motion and flexibility by stretching the muscle fiber.





You don’t have to be a pro athlete to reap the soothing benefits. 






What is Massage at the Cellular Level?

The outer membrane of the cell allows certain molecules to pass in and out of the cell.  Mechanical stimulation (such as massage) of the membrane increases protein synthesis up to 48%.  Subsequently, increased collagen (the most abundant form of protein in the body) produces healing, and affects every tissue and organ in the body.


Types of Massage Therapy

Many therapists are skilled in a variety of techniques to meet your needs. This list is not exhaustive; but it should give you an idea of how they differ.

Deep tissue or sports massage allows the therapist to focus on specific issues you may have.  Heavier pressure is used to reach layers of muscles and deep tissue.  This is not a soft, gentle massage because it’s meant to get into knots and tense muscle.

Lighter Swedish massage stimulates blood flow, reduces swelling, and encourages relaxation.  Various methods of manipulation are used such as kneading, rolling, and percussive movements.

Acupressure involves firm pressure at certain points on the skin, releasing muscular tension, alleviating pain, and promoting circulation.  It is claimed to influence internal organ function.

Breast massage can be used in conjunction with regular self-breast exams. It helps increase lymph and blood flow to the tissue.

Lymph drainage massage is a rhythmic method that encourages lymphatic flow and seeks alternate pathways for drainage.

Reflexology involves manipulation of specific areas of the ears, feet, and hands.  It is beneficial when direct pressure on an area because of trauma is not possible or causes to much discomfort.

Soft tissue release is used by sports medicine doctors and therapists for treatment of injuries. 


Massage Tips

Too Pricey for Your Budget?

The cost of massage makes it a luxury that many people can’t afford, particularly if you are on a fixed income.

I suggest purchasing a massage stick or roller.  There are several types available.  I keep one at home to use after particularly long bike rides or after skiing.  Whatever your sport or activity, they come in handy -- and they work.

Communicate

Communicate with your therapist before and during the massage. Don't grin and bear too much pressure. Then again, you don't want the pressure to be so light that there are no beneficial effects.

 


How to Find a Qualified Massage Therapist

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) offers a free locator service at FindaMassageTherapist.org.

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Writer/attorney, Bonnie Gabaldon, is the owner/developer of the health & fitness website, BodiesOfEvidence.com.

Bonnie graduated summa cum laude from Oregon State University with honors. She is a member of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. 

She researched and authored a significant undergraduate independent study paper, The Effect of Female Hormones on Elite Female Athletes During the First Trimester of Pregnancy.

Bonnie attended the University of New Mexico School of Law and Georgetown Law Center, and has been a licensed attorney since 2003.


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