Benefits of Massage Go Beyond Stress Relief
Aug 31, 2018 11:41AM
By Kathleen Ganster
Massage has often been thought of as a pampering luxury, but more and more people are beginning to understand its therapeutic and health benefits. Physicians and physical therapists may recommend massage as an accompaniment to other treatments, and more employers are including massages in healthcare benefits. Along with the commonly known benefits of massage—helping to reduce stress, muscle aches and pain and tension—there are other benefits as well.
According to The Mayo Clinic, massage can be helpful in treating conditions such as anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia, myofascial pain syndrome, soft tissue strains or injuries, sports injuries and temporomandibular joint pain.
“Everyone should get massages,” said Matthew Crooks, regional head therapist at Massage Envy at McCandless Crossing. “There are hundreds of reasons to.”
Crooks said they have clients as young as 8 (children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult during treatment) that benefit from massage. “For children in sports, massage helps keep their muscles relaxed and in good shape,” he explained.
Crooks often works with geriatric patients and shared a story about one elderly patient who couldn’t walk very well. “I’ve been treating her now for over a year, and she can flip over on the table like a 20-year-old and can walk without a cane,” Crooks said.
In his five years as a massage therapist, Crooks has seen a growth in employers providing massage as a benefit. “When I first started, there were very few,” he said, “but now employers are getting packages and certificates for their employees, and we are going out to do massage events for businesses.”
TommiAnn Lutz, studio operations manager at Elements Massage in Wexford, echoed Crooks’ thoughts.
“Massage is a documented first line of defense in pain management for everything from sports-related injuries to the reduction of pain for rheumatoid arthritis patients. Massage also helps with depression and stress reduction, as well as helps with nausea experienced by oncology patients,” she said.
All massage clients are requested to complete a health background prior to massage.
“We ask all clients to inform their therapists of current and ongoing health issues, so we can decide the best course of action for each client,” Lutz said. “There are instances when we would require a doctor’s permission before proceeding, for example, if a client had a recent accident or is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.”
That health assessment is extremely important and one that clients often downplay, Crooks said.
“We would love to know everything there is to know–the medical health history is very important to the therapist and must be accurate for us to do the best job that we can. We want to know if you were in an accident when you were 10,” he said.
Clients should arrive a few minutes early or even ask for the assessment in advance to ensure that it is complete and accurate.
“A lot of clients feel that is isn’t that important and then we waste valuable time filling in the blanks when we could be working on them,” Crooks said.
There are conditions when clients should not receive massages. “We do not recommend receiving a massage if you have open wounds, have a fever or severe inflammation, the beginning of a cold or flu, have a sunburn or poison ivy, or have recently had an accident,” Lutz said.
Every massage is beneficial, according to Rebekah Delling, massage therapist and owner of Hampton Holistic Center and SleepWeavers Massage.
“Studies show that even a light, 10-minute massage is beneficial to the body and mind. If you are serious about addressing the issues in your tissues, however, receiving consistent 60- or 90-minute therapeutic massages is the most effective approach,” she said, adding that massages also help to assist the body to rid itself of toxins.
Therapeutic massage can include deep tissue, sports, trigger, cupping and hot stone massages, just to name a few.
“Massages work to help set up the body to function properly,” said Delling. “It can address issues such as stress and inflammation and work on a couple of levels to lengthen muscles and increase circulation. It also addresses tissues directly.
“Massages should be part of a wellness program,” she added.
Massage therapists are required to be licensed in the state of Pennsylvania, and many have areas of specialization. Delling suggested that clients ask about the areas in which their massage therapists have extra training and certification, and Crooks said that they have a list of their therapists that includes each area in which they specialize.
So how often should someone receive a massage?
“At least once a month, but I recommend every two weeks, depending on the issue. If you only receive one once a month, it is like starting over every time and it won’t have as many benefits–it’s more like maintenance,” Delling said.
If there is a particular issue, such as a frozen shoulder, Delling recommends a massage at least once a week. “Or even twice a week–you really want a chance to work on it,” she said.