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When was the last time you had a massage? If you’ve never tried massage, maybe it’s time to learn about its possible health benefits.

Massage therapy is one of the fastest-growing health care professions in the United States, offered not only in spas but in businesses, clinics, hospitals, and even airports. An overwhelming accumulation of scientific evidence supports the claim that massage therapy can be beneficial in healing injuries, treating certain chronic and acute conditions, dealing with the stress of daily life, and maintaining good health. Human touch is one of our most primal needs, and getting regular massages can enhance your health, reduce stress, and help heal your body.

As individuals look for alternative or complementary therapies to supplement their medical treatments, many choose therapeutic massage.

Types of Massage Therapy

Massage is defined as soft tissue manipulation, including holding, causing movement, and/or applying pressure to the body. Although massage techniques vary among practitioners, the objectives are similar: to relax, soothe, stimulate, and relieve physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual discomfort.

Some of the most popular types of massage therapy include:

  • Swedish massage
  • Aromatherapy massage
  • Hot stone massage
  • Deep tissue massage
  • Sports massage
  • Trigger point massage
  • Prenatal massage

Systemic Benefits of Massage

Massage has the ability to affect the physiologic functioning of a number of systems. The scientific application of massage therapy can best be understood by examining its beneficial aspects on the following body systems.

  • Circulatory: Massage is known to increase venous blood flow back to the heart, thus improving circulation.
  • Digestive: Massage promotes the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates digestion, helps promote evacuation of the colon, and promotes peristaltic activity in the large intestine.
  • Endocrine: Massage decreases pain by releasing endorphins, enkephalins, and other pain-reducing neurochemicals.
  • Excretory: Massage promotes autonomic nervous system functioning; an increase in the production of gastric juices, saliva, and urine; and general homeostasis.
  • Integumentary: Massage improves the skin’s condition, texture, and tone by stimulating the sebaceous glands, causing an increase in sebum production.
  • Muscular: Massage relieves muscular tightness, stiffness, and spasms. It promotes muscular relaxation and enhances blood circulation, thus increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients available to the muscles.
  • Nervous: Because massage activates the sensory receptors, it can stimulate or soothe the nervous system, depending on the massage stroke used.

Benefits of Therapeutic Massage

Physical benefits include:

  • Relieving stress and aiding relaxation
  • Helping to relieve muscle tension and stiffness
  • Fostering faster healing of strained muscles and sprained ligaments, reducing pain and swelling, and reducing the formation of excessive scar tissue
  • Reducing muscle spasms
  • Increasing joint flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhancing athletic performance
  • Promoting deeper and easier breathing
  • Improving the circulation of blood and the movement of lymph fluids
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Helping to relieve tension-related headaches and the effects of eyestrain
  • Enhancing the health and nourishment of skin
  • Improving posture
  • Strengthening the immune system

Mental benefits include:

  • Fostering peace of mind
  • Promoting a relaxed state of mental alertness
  • Helping to relieve mental stress
  • Improving the ability to monitor stress signals and respond appropriately
  • Enhancing the capacity for calm thinking and creativity

Emotional benefits include: 

  • Helping to satisfy the needs for caring
  • Providing nurturing touch
  • Fostering a feeling of well-being
  • Reducing levels of anxiety
  • Increasing awareness of the mind-body connection