Many people set health and wellness goals at the beginning of every year, but lack the motivation to turn those goals into steady, healthy habits. This year, you might try committing to a steady dose of massage therapy treatment sessions. As you go through your regular massage therapy sessions, you will likely notice a wide variety of positive effects, which may include increases in your general level of health and wellness, pain relief and recovery, emotional balance, better sleep, and improved digestion.
Massage therapy can also positively affect your other health and wellness goals. When you get the mind/body benefits of massage on a regular basis, you’re more likely to have the energy you need to tackle even your most daunting resolutions. Imagine yourself feeling great on your way to the gym, enjoying better relationships, and putting a positive spin on your finances.
Why Is Massage the Perfect New Year’s Resolution?
- Let go of stress – Massage therapy can reduce your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that suppresses your immune, digestive, reproductive, and cellular growth systems.
- Reduce anxiety – Researchers have found massage therapy can soothe anxiety in people of all ages—from healthy adults to children with medical illnesses to hospice patients. Whether your anxiety stems from work, play, trauma, injury, pregnancy, or something else entirely, your massage therapist can help reduce your symptoms.
- Manage chronic illness – Many doctors recommend massage therapy as a complementary treatment for chronic illnesses. For example, one study observed the positive effects of massage therapy on a person with Parkinson’s. The effects included a reduction in resting tremors, a common symptom of the condition.
- Relieve pain – Research has shown massage therapy provides pain relief for people with many conditions, diseases, and injuries. In one study, a research team found massage therapy reduced pain in acute care patients, helped them regain their emotional balance, and promoted healing.
- Reduce the need for medication – Massage therapy can help people avoid or reduce using pain medication. For example, a team of researchers studied patients at a Portland methadone clinic. The patients received an hour of Swedish massage once a week. Study participants who received massage therapy experienced a significant reduction in pain, as compared to those who received only standard treatments.
- Soothe nausea – For those who experience frequent bouts of nausea, massage therapy can help soothe an upset stomach. One study found cancer patients who received Swedish massage before and after chemotherapy experienced a substantial reduction in nausea and vomiting.
- Sleep better – Research shows people who receive regular massage therapy treatments can enjoy more restful nights and energetic days. For example, researchers from one study observed improved sleep patterns and better quality of life in post-menopausal women with insomnia.
- Increase your energy – If you have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), or just need a boost in your day, consider massage therapy. A team of researchers found CFS patients benefited greatly from massage therapy, as compared to those who received other complementary treatments.
- Relieve depression – A team at the University of Miami School of Medicine studied a group of pregnant women with depression who received massage therapy in addition to standard treatments. These women experienced substantial mood increases, felt less pain, and gave birth to healthier babies.
- Improve digestion – Massage therapy has been shown to encourage healthy digestion. In one study, researchers found premature infants who received massage treatments had better digestion, gained weight faster, and showed better insulin levels than those who only underwent standard treatments.
- Soothe headaches – You can use massage therapy to get relief from many kinds of headaches, even chronic ones. Research from one study found massage therapy provided effective non-pharmaceutical relief from migraine headaches. Participants in this study reported fewer headaches and better sleep. The researchers noted improvements in these patients’ anxiety levels, heart rates, and cortisol levels.
- Recover easily – Many physicians recommend massage therapy for patients recovering from injury and surgery. For example, a group of Mayo Clinic researchers found massage therapy reduced pain in thoracic surgery patients, increased their mobility, and helped them breathe easier.
- Manage sports injuries – Athletes can benefit greatly from massage therapy—especially sports massage—for pain and soft tissue damage. An Ohio State University research team found massage therapy provided relief after the repetitive muscle contractions associated with exercise.
- Stimulate your immune system – Massage therapy can boost white blood cells and the “killer cells” that keep the body free of infection, even for those who have an immune-suppressing illness such as cancer.
- Lower blood pressure – Massage provides safe, non-pharmaceutical relief from many health conditions. One researcher studied a group of 50 women with moderately high blood pressure. Study participants who received Swedish massage treatments three times a week had significantly lower blood pressure than others.
In addition to these 15 benefits, massage therapy can help with other aspects of health and wellness, such as regulating heartbeat, improving memory, and managing obesity. Due to its healing and pain-reducing effects, doctors often recommend massage to people with heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and cancer. Massage therapy also works as a complementary therapy to medical treatments due to its low rate of negative side effects.
However, massage therapy isn’t for everyone. If you’re curious about using massage therapy to treat the symptoms of a medical condition, check with your physician first. Certain patients, especially those with deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) and certain skin ailments, should avoid massage therapy until their conditions improve.
Whatever your motivation for seeking massage therapy—physical health, pain relief, emotional balance, or pure enjoyment—you might consider regular appointments as a way to start your new year off on the right foot.
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- Alraek, T., Lee, M., Choi, T., Cao, H., & Liu, J. (2011). Complementary and alternative medicine for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 11, 87. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-87
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- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Chronic stress puts your health at risk. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037
- Mazlum, S., Chaharsoughi, Banihashem, N., & Vashani, H. (2013). The effect of massage therapy on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in pediatric cancer. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 18(4), 280-284.
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- Wiest, K., Asphaug, V., Carr, K., Gowen, E., & Hartnett, T. (2015). Massage impact on pain in opioid-dependent patients in substance use treatment. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 8(1), 12-24.