On a scale of one to ten, how well would you say you take care of yourself? Unfortunately, many of us may not truly take as good care of ourselves as we should. Perhaps you eat well and even exercise 3–5 times per week. Those are excellent. But do you get enough sleep? Maybe you didn’t take that into account. Or perhaps you do your best to get eight hours every night in addition to eating right and exercising—but you still carry tightness and tension in your neck and shoulders. There are many elements to taking good care of yourself, and stress reduction is a big one. Let’s face it: life these days is stressful—it just is. While we may not be able to do everything perfectly to take care of ourselves correctly all the time, we can reap many physical benefits from an occasional or regular massage treatment. Massages can balance out every area of our lives, helping us to relax and sleep better, giving us more energy with which to exercise, and improving our mental attitude and motivating us to eat healthy—a cycle of benefits that keeps on giving.
Increased Oxygen and Blood Flow
Massage releases tension in the muscles, improving blood flow and allowing oxygen to circulate better throughout the blood. When muscles are tense, lactic acid buildup prevents proper circulation, which can cause a host of physical issues, such as pain and achiness, fatigue, and stiffness, to name a few. When circulation is improved through massage manipulations, the damaged, tight muscles are delivered the oxygen-infused blood necessary to relax and heal themselves. As muscle knots are loosened, lactic acid is released and lymphatic drainage systems within the body are improved, allowing the toxins to be released from the body and boosting the body’s overall functions. Blood pressure is lowered naturally, enhancing relaxation and reducing tension while cleansing the body of impurities due to stress.
Healing and Rehabilitation from Injury
When recovering from an injury or surgery, scar tissue tends to build up in the affected area, reducing flexibility and range of motion. With regular massages, scar tissue is reduced and more oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood is delivered to the area, promoting faster healing and better recovery. Muscles also tend to tighten after injury, and massage helps keep them looser and more supple so that the area can be better used when fully recovered.
Many people live with chronic pain every day, learning to deal with it in any way they know how. But did you know that regular massages can help with pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia, TMJ, and migraines? In fact, there are a host of illnesses that benefit from regular massages. Here are several more:
- Varicose veins
- Carpal tunnel
- Muscular dystrophy
The list goes on. Massages help to treat and prevent injuries, improving circulation and flexibility. Headaches and migraines can be greatly reduced or eliminated with trigger-point therapy, releasing tension in the shoulders, neck, and head, and also improving quality of sleep to help reduce chronic headaches.
If you’ve ever done any yoga or stretching routines, you know the importance of muscle flexibility. When participating in any kinds of sports or activities, flexibility is vital to prevent injuries and improve performance; it also helps to prevent disease and illness. Flexibility is also a complement to better circulation, reducing lactic acid buildup and preventing soreness after a workout. Massages increase flexibility by loosening muscles, tendons, and connective tissue to keep them fluid and relaxed, improving range of motion and posture and reducing injury.
Did you know that stress and allergies/asthma can constrict breathing by tightening muscles in the upper body? When specific muscles around the rib cage are shortened and tight, a person begins to take more shallow breaths, which can lead to even more anxiety and stress. Deep breathing is necessary for relaxation and oxygen intake, which in turn will increase energy levels. Regular massages can help to loosen up the muscles in the abdomen that constrict breathing, allowing you to return to a normal breathing pattern, improve your posture, and boost lung function for better overall health.
Relieved Tension and Relaxed Muscles
Relaxing your muscles and reducing tension are relatively apparent benefits of massages. But there’s more to it than simple relaxation; our bodies are designed to take the time to rest we so often deprive ourselves of, and massages put us into healing and recovery mode. When a massage shows our minds and bodies what it feels like to be truly relaxed, we can recreate that feeling in times of stress to prevent it from overwhelming us. With continuous massages over time, our muscles can stay relaxed, and tension will be dramatically reduced.
Physical benefits of massage are numerous—perhaps you didn’t realize there were so many. But keep in mind that everything our brains process affects us physically, and the physical benefits will change us mentally in positive ways as well. When it comes to taking care of yourself, you know better than anyone else what you need—so don’t neglect to give yourself some time to rest and de-stress. Your body will thank you now and in the future.