Why Get a Massage?
The wide-ranging therapeutic benefits of massage help many people function better, and are backed up by research:
- An athlete recovers from exertion sooner, enhancing his performance, with massage.
- A child with ADD focuses better and employees are more attentive after 15-minute chair massages.
- A surgical patient who receives massage recovers more quickly as a result of increased circulation, less pain, better sleep and improved ability to fight infection.
- A dieter or a smoker trying to quit has reduced cravings after a massage.
Let’s take a look at how these benefits occur. As the massage therapist strokes, kneads, and stretches tight or partially contracted muscle fibers relax to their normal resting position. Muscles perform their functions better and pain subsides sometimes without medication or with less medication.
Massage therapists also manipulate soft tissue and joints to increase your range of motion (ROM), that is, how much movement you have in a joint. Regular massage enables an athlete to improve his golf swing or softball throw as a result of better ROM. If you aren’t an athlete, better ROM means being able to put the cereal box on the top pantry shelf or reach a challenging yoga pose.
In addition, massage enables you to recover more quickly from injury or infection. Your body produces more white blood cells during massage, speeding healing and fighting infection. The massage also increases your body’s circulation, delivering more nutrients to tissues and promoting healing.
Several studies by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine have focused on changes massage causes in the balance of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins in the blood. The changed balance encourages the production of natural killer cells, which fight pathogens. The balance also affects mood and emotions.
A brief massage – for example, a 15-minute chair massage – increases levels of dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine, thus encouraging alertness, focus and attentiveness. Many companies offer chair massage to employees occasionally or on a regular schedule because of this. The employees appreciate how the brief massage relieves aches and pains.
A longer massage relaxes the person by raising the level of serotonin, which subdues anxiety and stress, creates pleasurable sensations and promotes feelings of satiety. It reduces irritability and symptoms of depression, and has a calming, comforting effect. It also helps control hunger and cravings.
The level of endorphins, which alleviate pain, also rises with massage.
Conversely, massage lowers the level of cortisol, a stress hormone that is involved in stress-related diseases, suppressed immunity, inappropriate inflammatory responses and sleep disturbances.
Massage isn’t simply about pampering yourself; its therapeutic aspects enable your body to function better. The fact that is feels really, really good is a wonderful bonus.
Getting a Massage: Dos and Don’ts
On your way to your massage appointment? Maybe you’ve been given a certificate for massage as a gift? (Lucky you!) As a licensed massage practitioner (and an ardent massage customer for years before that), I’ve lived both sides of the massage transaction. Here are some pointers for getting the most out your experience:
- Be on time. About 5-10 minutes before your scheduled appointment is ideal. You want to be sure to get your fully-allotted time as well as make time for any paperwork you need to fill out.
- Shower before your session. Either before you leave the house or at the massage place (if they have it). It’s common courtesy, and it makes the experience better for everyone.
- Wait until your practitioner has left the room before you begin undressing. No, we haven’t “seen it all,” and we don’t want to!
- Tell your practitioner about any major surgeries or injuries you’ve had. Yes, in your entire life. That thing you’re thinking, “They need to know about that?” We do. It has bearing on how we will choose your course of treatment. (My very first massage client ever failed to tell me that he had been in a car accident the night before!)
- Speak up if something isn’t right. Many folks like to relax and “tune out” during their massage, but if something is not to your liking please let your practitioner know. They won’t take it personally and you’ll get a better experience. Your massage shouldn’t be something you have to endure; it should be something you enjoy!
- Leave on time. I know, I know. You’re very relaxed. The massage was wonderful. Your practitioner was charming and kind and you want to tell them more about your trip to Jamaica. But there is work to be done after the session and he or she needs to get to it.
- Tell your friends. Most massage practitioners are trying to grow their practices. If you like what they do, tell your friends. It’s the highest compliment you can give your practitioner, and the good karma will surely come back to you.
- Come in if you’re sick or have a contagious condition. There are 3 main reasons for this:
– We don’t want to catch what you have.
– We don’t want our other clients to catch what you have.
– Massage can greatly worsen the symptoms of a virus or cold.
Please call your practitioner or their reception desk and explain to them that you are ill and need to reschedule.
- Apologize if you haven’t shaved your legs. This one’s for you, ladies. We massage guys with veryhairy legs, we’re used to it. Really.
- Fret about the state of your pedicure. Again, ladies, this one’s for you. (Stop apologizing so much!) We’re more concerned with whether your feet are clean than whether your toes are polished.
- Come in if you’ve had alcohol or drugs in the past 24 hours. Narcotics are obviously not something you want coursing through your system when you’re receiving massage, and it is both unethical and dangerous to massage someone under the influence of alcohol. In fact, it’s best to avoid alcohol entirely for 24 hours before your massage. If you’ve had a fair amount to drink, massage can actually get you re-drunk (I’ve seen it happen). The last think I want to do is put a drunken client in their car to go home.
Massage is a wonderful way to relax, de-stress, and improve your health. Remember these dos and don’ts and you’re sure to have a consistently great experience.