Massages are pretty great. They can soothe aching muscles, help relax both body and mind, and they provide a bit of time away from life’s daily stresses.
Relaxation is often the main goal of a massage, but did you know that massages can also help alleviate the symptoms of certain ailments?
We’ve compiled a list of five common health issues that can be eased by the simple act of massage. Next time you’re bothered by one of the following, you might just find massage to be the answer…
Headaches. We’ve all had them. Some of us might even suffer from them on a regular basis. To a greater or lesser degree, headaches can impact negatively on our lives by reducing our ability to focus, encroaching on our tasks and responsibilities, and generally getting in the way of our daily routine. If you’re especially prone to this particular problem then you’ll know that dosing up on painkillers doesn’t always provide proper relief. So how can massage work to ease your symptoms?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple. Headaches can cause muscle tension - the pressure and rhythmic motion of massage is known to have a relaxing effect on muscles, so by targeting areas of the body that might be impacted by a headache (i.e. face, neck, shoulders and skull) you can help to relieve muscle tension and thus decrease your overall discomfort.
In addition to easing the effects of a headache, massage can also be used as a deterrent for future headaches. Regular massage improves both physical and mental relaxation, and this in turn reduces the chance of a tension headache taking hold. To fully utilise massage as a headache deterrent, you can intersperse professional massage sessions with a bit of self-massage. Try targeting a few acupressure points daily and you may well see a reduction in the frequency and intensity of tension headaches.
2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) affects the hands, wrists and forearms. It can cause pain, tingling and even numbness, so while it isn’t a life-threatening condition it can certainly be life-limiting. Medical treatment for CTS can be invasive, with strong medication or even surgery offered when the condition is particularly severe. Some suffers, however, may find that they benefit from remedial massage.
While not a magic bullet for CTS, massage can provide relief for those with the condition by stretching and lengthening the arm muscles, and also by breaking down any adhesions that could be contributing to CTS. Depending on the severity of a person’s condition, relief from massage can be immediate or may gradually occur over time. Like with headaches, you can increase the impact of massage therapy on your CTS by taking a few minutes each day to perform self-massage along the affected forearm and wrist. Opinion varies on the best type of massage for CTS, though there has been some suggestion that hot stone massage might be the most effective given its ability to more deeply relax the muscles.
Sleep is essential to our health and overall well-being. Without sufficient amounts of the stuff, our brains and bodies struggle to function properly, so insomnia is an important condition to get on top of. If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you’ll know it can be a difficult thing to overcome and you might consider the main course of action to be medication. While synthetic sleep aids might be helpful in the short-term, they are far from being a healthy long-term solution - so what other options are there?
Natural remedies have long been lauded for helping with insomnia. In addition to things such as aromatherapy and valerian root, massage has been deemed helpful for encouraging the body back into a regular sleeping pattern by calming both body and mind and promoting the production of serotonin in the brain. From full body massage and hot stone sessions to Indian head massage and reflexology, the ability of this ancient practice to ease sleeplessness shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re struggling to get enough shut-eye, why not consult your local massage practitioner for advice? You might be surprised by how helpful even just a session or two can be.
4. Back Pain
You know the routine - you pick something up without bending your knees, you sleep in an awkward position, or you overdo it in the gym. Suddenly the pain in your back is all you can think about. It might be a flare up of an old injury or a toothache sort of gnawing at the base of your spine - however your back pain presents and whatever the cause, it’s likely you’ll want to ease it as quickly as possible.
While medications have their place, they can often mask back pain without getting to the source of the issue. Utilising massage therapy can not only ease your back pain but it actually work to overcome it. In addition to soothing the body, massage helps to stretch out and lengthen muscles; it also promotes blood flow to the areas that are being massaged, which in turn encourages healing. The next time you’ve a flare up, maybe bypass the ibuprofen for a session with your local massage therapist and work on treating the problem rather than simply masking the symptoms.
Modern life is stressful. As a population, we’re busier than we have ever been and demands on our time are increasing day by day. It’s no surprise then that anxiety is on the rise, and it’s important to explore holistic ways in which we can reduce our stress levels to improve our overall mental health.
Massage is one of the most reliable ways of inducing a state of calm. It helps to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn has a positive impact on the nervous system and the body as a whole. Massage helps us unwind and can be used to reduce symptoms of anxiety to help keep us on an even emotional keel.
If a busy schedule makes regular massages tricky to organise, self-massage can be utilised to reduce your anxiety symptoms. Try rhythmically rubbing the base of your palms in gentle circular motions, or treat your temples to the same smooth motion. Targeting acupressure points can also be highly beneficial while suffering from anxiety and can easily be done in the comfort of your own home.