Massage Therapist manipulates clients’ soft tissues and joints with hands, fingers, forearms, and elbows. Specialized tools to provide tangible medical benefits. They also offer a holistic approach to wellness that addresses the physical and emotional aspects of a client’s well-being.
Many massage therapists earn a diploma, certificate, or technical degree. These programs often meet the educational requirements for state licensing.
Stress is a part of life, but when left untreated, it can be harmful. When it becomes chronic, anxiety can lead to severe fatigue, areas of pain and tension such as the back or neck, breathing issues, sleep problems, digestive issues and lowered immunity. Many people with anxiety have a hard time relaxing and find that regular massage therapy helps. In fact, studies show that getting a massage decreases cortisol levels and increases serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters known to stabilize moods.
The human body has two nervous systems: the sympathetic nervous system, which drives your “fight or flight” response during stressful situations; and the parasympathetic nervous system that focuses on routine and day-to-day operations like digestion and rest. While the fight or flight response is necessary for survival, it can become detrimental in chronic situations when your body is constantly stimulated. Massage therapy is one of the most common forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and it is commonly used to relieve anxiety.
When you get a massage, your sympathetic nervous system gets switched off and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to take over, stimulating your body’s “rest and digest” functions. This reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, slows down your breath, relaxes your muscles, and allows you to forget about your stresses for an hour or so.
A licensed massage therapist is trained to recognize the connection between stress and muscle pain. In addition to providing relaxation, a good massage can help ease muscle tightness and anxiety-related headaches by relieving the tension that causes them. In addition, massage has been shown to reduce anxiety in psychiatric patients, cancer patients, and those waiting for an invasive medical procedure. A study published in Applied Nursing Research found that a single session of massage significantly decreased the level of anxiety in those with generalized anxiety disorder. Deep tissue and trigger point massages are also effective in relieving anxiety, as they release knots and tension that can cause stress and pain. Unlike cognitive therapy, which teaches patients to change negative thought patterns, massage provides instant relief for those suffering from anxiety.
Massage is a great way to relieve muscle tightness. Tight muscles can cause pain, and when the muscles are relaxed they can move more easily. Tight muscles can be caused by a variety of things, including overuse, injury, poor posture and stress. They can also be caused by repeated contractions, such as clenching your jaw or hiking up your shoulders. These sustained contractions can lead to the formation of trigger points. Massage can help release these trigger points, which can relieve pain and improve flexibility.
The main reason for muscle spasms is a decrease in blood flow to the area, which can cause a build-up of waste products and an increase in tension. Massage increases blood flow and reduces tension by kneading and stretching the muscles. Massage can also reduce muscle tightness by breaking down knots and adhesions. Knots and adhesions are formed when the fibers of a muscle shorten and bunch up, causing pain. Remedial massage uses techniques such as deep strokes, kneading and skin rolling to manipulate the muscle fibres and relieve the knots.
Tight muscles can also be caused by compression of nerves. Massage can release the pressure on nerves by relaxing the muscles, which allows them to assume their normal function of transmitting signals to and from the brain.
Massage can decrease the sympathetic nervous system activity that causes your body’s fight or flight response, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety. It can also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes rest and relaxation. Massage can also increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that stabilize your mood.
The body needs a steady supply of blood to send nutrients and oxygen to tissues. Massage increases circulation by stimulating blood vessels to open and improve the flow of blood. This helps to decrease pain and increase the range of motion in joints. It also improves the function of organs like the heart and lungs, as well as relieves muscle pain.
The pressure applied by the massage therapist during the session stimulates nerve receptors in the soft tissue, which leads to a relaxation response. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn decreases the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and increases serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that can help ease depression. Getting a massage can also improve sleep, as it encourages the release of melatonin, another brain chemical that promotes restful sleep.
Studies on the effect of massage on circulation have produced mixed results. One study found that a single, full-body massage increased the diameter of blood vessels by an average of 20%, although other studies have not seen measurable changes in actual blood flow. However, other research suggests that the mechanical stimulation to the soft tissue caused by massage may reduce blockages and constrictions in the vessels and improve blood flow.
Massage can also stimulate the lymphatic system, which is responsible for draining metabolic waste and excess fluids from tissues into the bloodstream and removing them through the liver and kidneys. Lymph flow is important because if it becomes blocked, toxins build up and can lead to swelling, which can be painful. Massage can improve lymph flow by squeezing and lifting the tissue, a technique called tapotement.
There is a risk, though, that this squeezing action can cause clots to break loose in the veins and be carried downstream until they reach the lungs, where they become a pulmonary embolus. This is a potentially deadly condition that can cause symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing and coughing. This risk is most likely to occur if the clots are large or when the person is bedridden. While a thromboembolic episode is very rare in healthy people, it is important to discuss the risks of massage with your doctor.
Sleep disorders like insomnia can have a negative effect on your mental and physical health. Insomnia and other sleep issues cause people to wake up tired and groggy each day, which can lead to a variety of health conditions including weight gain, weak immune system, and depression. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve your sleep quality, such as getting regular massages and practicing good sleep hygiene.
A big reason that massage helps you get better sleep is because it can help reduce stress, which causes many of the issues that contribute to insomnia. In addition, massage can increase the body’s production of endorphins, which are the brain’s natural painkillers. Plus, it can decrease cortisol levels and encourage the release of serotonin, which helps regulate your sleep cycles.
Research shows that massage can improve both the quality and duration of sleep, which can be very beneficial for those struggling with insomnia or other sleep issues. For example, studies show that massage can reduce snoring in those with sleep apnea and help people with congestive heart failure have a better night’s rest.
Another way that massage can improve your sleep is by relieving the symptoms of restless leg syndrome (RLS), which can be very disruptive to sleep. Researchers have found that massage can stimulate the release of a chemical in the brain called dopamine, which can relieve RLS and help you sleep better.
Insomnia and other sleep problems are common, especially in older adults. If you’re suffering from sleep disorders, be sure to consult a doctor and create a plan to address the issue with your healthcare team.
Massage can be a great addition to your overall sleep management strategy, and you can even get some of the same benefits at home by using a massage tool that you can use for self-massage before bed. Be sure to incorporate other healthy habits into your routine, such as limiting caffeine intake and practicing good sleep hygiene, in order to have the best chance at getting high-quality, restful sleep.