Who doesn’t like the idea of a massage? I mean, even if you’ve never had a professional one, you probably had a friend or loved one rub your shoulders when you were feeling particularly tense. Sore muscles turn to butter. Stress seems to fade. And that long to-do list can be ignored for a while. The thing is, a massage feels good because it is good for you. When I headed over to Massage Envy last week for the Healing Hands for Arthritis event, there were several folks there getting massages for specific health reasons. I already knew that after a massage, I feel pretty motivated to take on the world. And when I’m feeling stressed, I’d like nothing more than to become a hermit (on a tropical beach somewhere). I had no idea how many health benefits of massage there are though. Here’s what I found out.
Health benefits of massage
Anxiety and depression
Getting a massage makes you feel good physically and mentally. More specifically, it reduces cortisol – which your body needs, but in the right amount. Cortisol causes that fight-or-flight reaction. When there is an emergency, it’s essential. When you are always stressed out about something, it leads to perpetually high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and a general feeling of being frazzled. After feeling overwhelmed for a while, it’s easy to become depressed. (See above reference to becoming a hermit.) We all have bad days. But when you have too many in a row, you start to forget about the good ones.
Allergies and immune system
Believe it or not, a massage can help with your allergies and boost your immune system. Studies have shown that even just a short one will increase your white blood cells and help you sleep better. It also reduces the number of cytokine proteins, which are associated with inflammation. Have you ever noticed that you often get sick at just the wrong time? It’s because stress weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and other grossness. A massage won’t replace a flu shot, but it will definitely compliment it.
Pain and injuries
Massage is good for your muscles. That’s a no-brainer. But it actually works like some types of exercise or physical therapy to reduce long-term pain. Athletes, those of us who spend most days hunched over a desk, and even people suffering from arthritis can benefit. There are lots of different kinds of massage. Some can increase flexibility or improve posture.
Getting a massage
At Massage Envy
There are hundreds of Massage Envy locations across the country, so there is almost certainly one near you. I’ve been there a few times and every massage has been just what I needed. My appointment last week with Rosie was nice and relaxing. I really appreciate how she started off asking me about why I was there and what I wanted her to focus on. She – and all the other employees – are really careful about modesty. For those worried about being naked (I was the first time), only the area being massaged is uncovered and the rest of you is under several layers of sheets. The room is dark and quiet. You might think that an hour is a long time, but for me it always seems to fly by. If you’re trying to decide where to go, this is the place I recommend.
I think for most people, the biggest issue is money. Cost is by far, the main reason that I don’t get a massage every month. A membership at Massage Envy – or most other places – will cost you upwards of $700 per year. Not cheap, but neither is a trip to the doctor. If you have health insurance, some plans actually include massage. For ones that don’t, a health savings account might. Sometimes the best plan, though, is to save up and treat yourself once per year, which is what I do. You can also try winking at your hubby while you tell him about the Massage Envy gift card.
Home massage tips
Between massages, there are a few things I do at home. If you have any medical issues, please talk to your doctor. If you’re an average-stressed-Jane like me, these techniques might help you feel better. They can all be done at your desk, or really, anywhere.
Roll your neck. In a regular sitting-up position, lower your chin to your chest. Slowly, roll your head around your shoulders in a clockwise or counter-clockwise circle a few times. Repeat going the opposite direction. This will help your neck and shoulder muscles relax a little. Your neck might pop too.
Touch your toes. Okay, you don’t have to be able to actually touch your toes for this one. Sitting in any chair, place your feet flat on the floor. Lean forward and try to touch your toes. Relax and don’t over-do it. Your back will stretch and it might pop. I find this method a lot easier and just as beneficial as trying to do the same thing while standing.
Pinch your fingers. I learned this one from my father-in-law, who has studied reflexology. The basic premise is that everything in your body is connected. By massaging just your fingers, you can help the rest of you feel a bit better. Using your thumb and pointer finger on one hand, gently pinch the end of each finger on the other hand. Press the nail/pad direction for a few seconds, then switch to the sides. By the time you get done with all ten, you will be feeling a bit more relaxed. This is my go-to method for getting rid of a mild headache.
I’d love to get some reader feedback. Have you ever gotten a massage? Was it for one of these health benefits, or something else?
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Massage Envy. All opinions are my own. Facts are based on the research cited, but are not meant to replace your doctor’s advice.