Mayo Clinic agrees – massage is an effective way to reduce stress, pain, and muscle tension. Some studies also suggest that it may be effective for other chronic conditions as well.
Proven to help with:
Massage triggers the release of endorphins, such as serotonin and dopamine, which trigger feelings of relaxation and a positive mood within your brain. In addition, massage has also been proven to lower your heart rate and decrease your cortisol (the “stress hormone”) levels. All of these together help you feel physically and psychologically less stressed and to cope with stress more positively when it does arise.
Massage loosens sore muscles and increases blood flow to the affected area, which brings with it a fresh flow of oxygen and nutrients. Some studies indicate that another common cause of pain – headaches and migraines – may also be helped with regular massage therapy, since these often stem from stress and fatigue.
Muscle tension is common and can be caused by a number of emotional and physical factors, including overexertion, long hours of sitting (especially with poor posture), stress, and more. Massage helps loosen tight muscles, improve flexibility, and decrease stress, all of which work together to help your back, neck, and other areas of tension or stiffness relax.
May also help with:
Anxiety is an acute form of negative stress. The muscular relaxation of massage, increased flow of endorphins, and decrease in cortisol may work together to help decrease feelings of anxiety and promote a positive mood.
Stomachaches, indigestion, cramps, nausea, and vomiting may be helped in some cases by increasing the blood flow to the stomach, relaxing the muscles, and helping food to move through your digestive tract correctly.
Chronic pain is a hallmark of fibromyalgia. Although the exact cause of the pain is unknown, gentle forms of massage – such as hot stone therapy – may work to alleviate stress and relax the muscles in a gentler way than other therapies.
In many instances, headaches are linked to stress and fatigue. When this is the case, using massage to help alleviate stress and promote deeper, more relaxing sleep may help decrease occurrences of headaches and migraines. Other times, such pain is linked to deeper problems within the jaw, such as TMJ, which may also be helped with massage (see below).
Although massage will not replace your dentist if your TMJ syndrome is caused by a poor bite or a misalignment, in many cases, the masseter muscle is an aggravating factor in TMJ pain when tension in the muscle pulls your temporomandibular joint out of place. Massage can help relax this muscle, which may allow your jaw to fall into a more natural, comfortable position.
Massage may work as both a prevention and a treatment for sports injuries. Pre-event massages can increase muscle flexibility and improve circulation, effectively “warming up” the muscle and avoiding some injuries that occur when vigorously exercising a stiff muscle. Post-event massages can help relax overused muscles and encourage blood flow to injured areas.
Soft tissue injuries
Massage is not only good for athletes. Anyone with a soft tissue injury may benefit from massage, which can relax the muscles and increase blood flow to the affected area, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the muscle and removing toxins.
Insomnia caused by chronic stress can be a catch-22 — you cannot relax until you sleep, but you cannot sleep until you relax. Massage may help break the destructive cycle by stimulating the release of endorphins and promote relaxation and decreasing the “stress hormone,” cortisol. With the reduction in stress and increase in relaxation may come deeper, more restful sleep.