Five Reasons Why You Need a Full Body Massage – Regularly!
by Jennifer Shaw, LMT
If you google “benefits of massage,” you’ll likely see lists including words like relaxation, improved sleep, circulation and digestive health. And those are all valid benefits. What these lists don’t usually emphasize is how important receiving consistent, full body massage therapy is to achieving these benefits. So here is a slightly different kind of list – one that encourages you to address your whole self and with regularity.
1. Build awareness of your body.
The pace of today’s world demands we go, go, go, and our bodies are the vehicles for this “going.” We often know where our pain is, but we don’t often know why.
Are you really paying attention to what you are asking your body to do?
We all have postural patterns we are likely not aware of that impact our bodies. For example, you may know that you get a warm, sometimes throbbing pain into your neck – that’s hard to miss, right? But you may not know that you likely exacerbate a knot in your upper shoulder when you rest your left elbow on the window ledge of your car while commuting. Good thing in this story you receive a regular, full body massage!
Finally, you go in for a massage. Help me! During your session, your massage therapist works your shoulders, finding the knot and sending the same warm pain up to your neck. Surprise! It was really your shoulder that was the problem in this case. But did you know?
Touch is an information provider. Receiving regular massage not only allows you to passively experience your body, but also, through regular, full body massage sessions, may help you understand your body as a whole.
2. Address long-term physical goals.
Once you begin to understand your body, regular massage sessions can also help you tackle the long-term, physical issues.
Massage can impact many physical goals you may have – not just those related to pain. Yes, you may finally be able to get rid of that burning knot, but another objective may also be to improve recovery time after a strenuous workout or regain mobility in a previously injured shoulder. And don’t forget about your immune system. It benefits from massage, as well.
No matter the goal, it is likely each one will require more than one massage session to achieve, and once achieved, you will likely need to continue with a regular, full body massage session to maintain wellness.
3. Manage your mental health – including stress.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates approximately 20.9 million Americans experience mood disorders including depression, while approximately 40 million suffer from an anxiety disorder. The traditional, Western treatment for many mental illnesses like these often includes taking multiple medications to reduce hormones like adrenaline and cortisol while increasing serotonin and dopamine production.
While your massage therapist is not a mental health professional, a full body massage can be a complement to traditional treatment. The Touch Research Institute at Miami University reports massage therapy lowered cortisol levels up to 53 percent. Cortisol is also known as the “stress hormone” and plays an active role in many mental health issues facing us today.
Swedish massage is often an ideal massage modality for mental health because it tends to be gentler, slower and addresses the nervous system, not unlike some traditional medications used to treat mental illness.
And just like the medicine it complements, massage should be experienced at regular intervals for the maximum benefit – you don’t just take the anti-depressant once!
4. Maintain your overall wellness.
Often times when clients experience success on the massage table, they get up, shake their massage therapist’s hand, praise them profusely, walk out the door and aren’t seen again for months. Predictably, when they do return, it is for the same cranky shoulder or low back or anxiety to the build-up of the same, daily stressors.
For this reason, receiving massage regularly is important not only to improve body awareness, physical discomfort and mental health but also to maintain each of those successes once they are achieved on the table.
If you have worked out the kink in the shoulder, addressed the postural patterns that caused it and are feeling better about your life, consider continuing to receive a regular full body massage to keep all your body systems “going, going, going.” In a few months, during one of your sessions, you may notice a new sore spot or area of tension you can’t let go of, and the process will begin again.
5. Cultivate a working relationship with your massage therapist.
This is one of the most important and most often overlooked benefits of receiving regular massage. It is perhaps the key to the previous four reasons receiving a full body massage is so important. Without a working relationship with the same massage therapist, many of the benefits of massage discussed here do not exist.
It is the massage therapist who has worked on the whole you for months who will notice the patterns that could be impacting your pain, who knows your body and can help you improve your physical state and who knows your health history and understands how to relieve your stress. Then, when all that is said and done, it is your massage therapist who knows all the work you’ve done together who can help you maintain all your successes on the massage table. But this knowledge, this benefit of massage, requires a relationship, and that requires regularity.
You know massage is relaxing and it feels good, and it is good for you, but now you know why receiving regular, often full-body massage, is so beneficial.
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