Benefits of Massage Therapy

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Recent studies confirm what athletes and everyday people alike have been claiming for years. That Massage therapy has a range of not only feel good benefits, but can actually improve one’s athletic performance and promote wellness.

There are thousands of licensed massage therapists often referred to as LMT’s practicing in the country today. Each goes through a rigorous educational program that can last from six months to a full year. While the profession can earn therapists a decent living, many do it because they love the process and helping people.

The average massage therapist makes between 30 and 40 thousand dollars a year. Many start their own businesses or work in spas, resorts and even cruise ships. Some go into the profession because they want to travel and end up in such tropical places as the Caribbean or Hawaii.

The average cost of a massage is approximately sixty dollars. Prices can vary widely however as expensive spa settings can charge well over a hundred dollars for specialty massage while fitness clubs generally charge less than the average. Therapists like many in the service industry work for tips to offset lower pay and lack of benefits.

Typically a one-hour massage lasts less than that, about 50 minutes as practitioners go through a full-body protocol that effectively works every major muscle group. Each state has its own draping laws to insure that clients are comfortable and secure. The process is an intimate one as clients generally disrobe but remain secured under a towel or sheet.

Many people are getting what is known as chair massage. A therapist will provide a modified chair that a client can recline, face first in. A few of the benefits of this type of massage are that clients can remain fully clothed during the process and it can be performed in any setting where a chair can be set up. Many corporations and small businesses provide chair massage as a benefit for their employees.

There are many specialty types of massage modalities but the most popular tend to be Swedish, deep tissue, sports and reflexology. Many people who go to spas enjoy the many benefits that the relatively new hot rock and hydro-therapeutic massages provide.

People are getting massage with specific benefits in mind as well as a whole host and range of reasons. Many complain of sore muscles, general fatigue and the build-up of what the industry refers to as trigger-points. Everyone suffers from them at one time or another. These are highly palpable, highly sensitive bundles of muscle fiber that present as a result of a build-up of ischemic fluids. Ischemic fluids and reparative fluids are rushed to a trauma site to help heal muscle injury and for one reason or another a feedback loop develops and the fluid keeps building until muscle contracture is compromised and range of motion is limited. Another issue may be the build-up of lactic acid after physical exercise or even the effects of stress and the over-production of cortisol.

In trigger-point therapy the therapist will perform ischemic-compression with a thumb or elbow in order to push the fluid out. The resultant vacuum-effect pulls oxygenated blood into the affected area. This basic process is also at work in other modalities as the manipulation of soft-tissues moves waste fluids toward the heart then to the kidneys for elimination. One of the complimentary benefits of massage therapy includes an increase in peristalsis of both the lymphatic and cardiovascular systems.

Fully twenty percent of the body’s blood, at any given time, is pooled in the soft tissues of the body. A full-body massage gets that blood back into circulation giving what is known as an oxygen therapeutic effect. As blood volume increases so likewise does the gaseous exchange in the alveoli sacs of the lungs. The blood is then more fully volumated with life sustaining oxygen for dissemination throughout the body.

So that a client will more fully enjoy the benefits of the massage, after each session a practitioner with recommend a full glass of water to help the blood carry a now full contingent of both ischemic wastes and oxygen for metabolism.  If a client is not properly hydrated, benefits can be mitigated as the waste fluids coursing through one’s system can cause head aches and nausea.

One of the best and most highly touted benefits of massage however is the body’s chemical response. When the soft tissues of the body are manipulated the body responds by flooding the system with opiate-like chemicals. As a result, many clients enjoy a wakeful somnolence and dream-like state during the massage.

Massage can be contraindicated by certain disease processes including cancer or other maladies that exacerbate with the moving of fluids around. One does not, for example, want to massage a person with possible cancer cells that could be more efficiently metastasized with tissue manipulation. Additionally, massage can be, if given in a too rigorous and deep a fashion, counter-productive causing a range of negative side-effects including soft-tissue bruising. When getting a massage it is always therefore important to have it done by a fully trained and licensed massage professional. And before one seeks out massage, like any service that affects a person’s health, a traditional medical doctor should be consulted.

Studies now indicate that all bodily systems including the brain and cognition work more efficiently and productively with massage therapy. Athletes not only swear by it but studies confirm that performance levels increase in direct proportion to the quality of the massage utilized in one’s training regimen. Whether you are looking for a feel good massage or want to improve performance on the field of competition, a therapeutic massage, with all the benefits so entailed, may be just what the doctor ordered.

By Matthew R. Fellows

Sandy Fritz, Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage (2013)

Mayo Clinic


Photo By: Nick Webb Flicker License