Massage Your Way to Better Health

massage-1237913Some people prefer shopping, some like their wine, but our luxury of choice is a massage. There’s nothing like the feeling of being rubbed and kneaded, stroked and stretched. We walk out of there feeling like new women. It’s long been known that a massage helps to decrease anxiety, boost mood, improve sleep, and alleviate muscle soreness. To top that all off, now there’s research proving that massages boost your immunity.

The study, published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, looked at 53 men and women, ages 18-45, and divided them into two groups: one received a traditional Swedish massage, and the other received a light touch meant to simulate a massage but without the actual massage techniques. Blood samples were taken and hormones and immune system markers were analyzed. They found that the patients who received the actual massage had lower stress hormones and higher levels of cells that increase the immune system response.

Different kinds of massage

Although the study only looked at Swedish massages, there are other types of massages from which you can reap the same benefits. Other popular techniques include:

  • Deep tissue  is also called deep muscle therapy or deep tissue therapy. It is a term for bodywork systems that work deeply into the muscles and connective tissue to release chronic aches and pains.
  • Shiatsu  (Japanese for “finger pressure”) is a system for healing and health maintenance that has evolved over thousands of years. Shiatsu derives both from the ancient healing art of acupuncture and from the traditional form of Japanese massage, amma. The goal of each of the different types of shiatsu being practiced, Zen shiatsu, tsubo point therapy, shiatsu massage and water shiatsu, is balancing energy flow.
  • Thai massage is an ancient bodywork system designed to unblock trapped energy and improve vitality by applying pressure along energy pathways called sens. These pathways carry vital life energy. Thai massages use slow, often meditative, rhythmic pressing by fingers, thumbs, hands, forearms, elbows and feet (which are used extensively) and yoga-like stretches coupled with gentle rocking motions.
  • Reflexology  is a form of bodywork based on the theory of zone therapy, in which specific spots of the body are pressed to stimulate corresponding areas in other parts of the body. Foot reflexology, in which pressure techniques are applied only to the feet, is the most common form of reflexology.
  • Pregnancy Massage is the massage of pregnant women (prenatal) and women after giving birth (postpartum). It address the special needs of pregnant women such as discomforts in the lower back, feet and legs.
  • Craniosacral therapy is a light touch manipulation of the head and bottom of the spine to restore optimal cerebrospinal fluid movement. It can be especially useful in treating headaches, eye and ear problems, jaw problems, whiplash and back pain.
  • Reiki is a Japanese word pronounced “ray-kee” and means “universal life energy.” It is a light touch or no-touch technique for channeling this omnipresent energy to promote healing.
  • Acupressure is a form of bodywork based in traditional Chinese meridian theory in which acupuncture points are pressed to stimulate the flow of energy or chi.

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How to make a massage work for you

Whether you can afford a weekly massage or one less often, there are a few things you need to know.

  1. Find a certified massage therapist  Check out the websites http://www.amtamassage.org/index.html and http://www.ncbtmb.org/consumers_find_practitioner.php to find a massage therapist that’s been trained and certified in various massage techniques.
  2. Do it yourself   Giving yourself a 5 minute hand or foot massage can give your mind and body a much needed break and help to recharge your weary battery.

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