Massages are more than just indulgences. They're proven health and mood treatments. Find out how they can benefit you



Ten neck massages over 10 weeks. Sound good? People with chronic neck pain reported a 55 percent improvement after this regimen, according to a 2009 study in the Clinical Journal of Pain. They even scored 39 percent better on the worst-sounding test ever, the Neck Disability Index. (It assesses the pain's impact.)


Athletic Performance "Musculotendinous" massages target muscle-tendon junctions, and a 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that even a 30-second round improved hip-flexor range of motion. Try it: Find where muscle meets tendon just behind and above your knee, and rub the spot in small circles with your thumb. Stress

You don't need a full-body rubdown to feel good. In a 2010 study from Sweden, one 80-minute hand-and-foot massage significantly lowered people's heart rates, cortisol levels, and insulin levels—all of which help lower stress.


Depression Take your pick: Swedish, shiatsu, and other massage types may ease depression, a 2010 meta-analysis in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found. How? Massages reduce stress hormone levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, and boost mood and relaxation by triggering the release of oxytocin and serotonin.


High Blood Pressure A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that after people with normal blood pressure had deep-tissue massage for 45 to 60 minutes, their BPs fell—specifically, by an average of 10.4 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg) systolic, and 5.3 mm/Hg diastolic.


Lower-Back Pain Back problems can be complex. One solution is simple: Common massage techniques can help you relax, and trigger an endorphin release that raises your threshold for pain. And that might help people with all sorts of lower-back pain, notes a 2009 meta-analysis in the journal Spine.


Constipation Would you like an abdominal massage with that laxative? Yes, you would: A 2009 Swedish study found that people who received a massage along with traditional constipation treatment felt significantly better than those who stuck with just laxatives.

Updated: Nov 2, 2018

Getting regular massage can help with achieving weight loss. What is regular massage therapy? The recommendation is weekly preferably and/or monthly. Massage therapy allows the body to relax thereby

decreasing cortisol levels. Combined with diet and exercise your weight problems will start to disappear.



"Of all the weight-loss techniques out there, the idea that regular massages could help you shed pounds is definitely among the most appealing. It seems too good to be true—all you have to do is lie there and the weight starts to fall off? Well, that’s not exactlyhow it works.

“In my 15 years as a massage therapist, I've helped a lot of people lose some serious weight,” says Wil Lewis, massage program director at New York City’s Chillhouse. But he’s quick to add that massages alone aren’t what helped clients lose weight. Rather, his methods set clients up for success by putting them in the proper mental and physical space to effectively diet and exercise.


Weight loss can often be seen as a tough and miserable pursuit that hinges on pain and suffering, says Lewis. But when massage is incorporated into that weight-loss plan, there’s suddenly an element of self-love and care. In his experience, Lewis says that massage therapy can make the process of weight loss more positive, which encourages people to stick with it. Plus, a massage is an excellent non-food reward for when you reach your goals.


RELATED: HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT FAST WITHOUT CRASH DIETING


A more tangible way massage can help you lose weight is it can make exercise much easier. If you’re physically uncomfortable moving, weight loss isn’t going to come easily. “Nothing can be more de-motivating than being bedridden for six to eight weeks while you heal an Achilles tear or a torn labrum,” says Lewis. “Massage therapy keeps muscles tuned up, eliminates the tension before it turns into an injury, and reduces delayed onset muscle soreness. When it feels good to be in your body, it makes it easier and more fun to sculpt your body.”

Reshmi Srinath, M.D. and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease at Mt. Sinai agrees that for those with chronic pain, massage can alleviate that pain and a generally improve lifestyle. Improved quality of life can lead to people making better choices in regard to food and activities, she says. While there aren’t controlled, randomized studies showing a direct link between massage therapy and weight loss, there is data showing that pain alleviation lowers stress levels, she says. And as we know, stress can be a major contributing factor to weight gain. Another positive effect of massage therapy is that it can help people wean off pain medication, another factor that can lead to weight gain, she says.


RELATED: 8 PRESCRIPTION MEDS THAT MAKE IT HARDER TO LOSE WEIGHT


Beyond making weight loss more accessible, there are certain advanced massage techniques that Lewis says can help improve a person's physical appearance and mobility. One example is manual lymphatic drainage which aims to reduce edema and swelling, specifically swollen ankles, legs, and waists. “If you feel like you're retaining water, lymphatic drainage is a fantastic tool to flush out the extra fluid and make you feel less puffy,” he says. Studies on the efficacy of this treatment are limited, but one study from 2014 found that while it didn't reduce cellulite, there was a small reduction in hip circumference in women who got the massage weekly for 14 weeks. Beyond the physical results, researchers noted high increases in the women's quality of life due to stress reduction. Those who practice lymphatic drainage massage typically hold a certification from institutes such as the Academy of Lymphatic Studies.

Another technique is a form of neuromuscular therapy called Body Insight Method. This type of massage works to reengage deactivated muscles, says Lewis. When muscles disengage, surrounding muscle groups will work overtime to compensate, leading to possible injury and poor posture and flexibility. Body insight therapy targets the tension receptors around those muscles in order to reactivate them and provide the body a release, he says. If certain muscles aren’t engaging, they’ll have a hard time burning fat. This reactivation can ease pain and improve athletic performance, which can lead to improved toning. This technique was developed in 2014 by the Healing Arts Institute massage therapy school in Fort Collins, Colorado. It's a popular technique in the massage therapy world, but there's limited research on its effectiveness.


Another technique that can improve your physique is postural balancing. “No matter how skinny a person is, if their shoulders are slumped forward, the torso will have a hard time getting in shape and they'll be prone to rotator cuff injuries and headaches,” says Lewis. “When a massage therapist opens the pecs and releases the base of the skull, the shoulder blades can slide together behind the back and the neck can lengthen. This simple process can transform a hunchback to leave a triangular upper torso with a proud chest and a long, graceful neck.” Similarly, if the lower back is too arched, the belly will spill forward, leaving a pooch that no amount of sit ups can beat, he says. A massage that utilizes postural techniques can realign your pelvic tilt, leaving you with a long waist and abs that appear flatter.


RELATED: THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD LOSE WEIGHT, ACCORDING TO YOUR BODY TYPE


That being said, you should know that if a masseuse starts making big promises like, "See me once a week and you'll lose 15 pounds in a month," it's a major red flag. Additionally, no one should be offering you nutrition or fitness advice without the proper credentials—we prefer a registered dietitian for diet tips and a C.S.C.S for personal training. If a massage therapist starts giving you weight-loss tips, it's probably a good idea to ignore them and find a different therapist.

But, just like hitting the gym or eating healthy, you won’t see the benefits if you aren’t seeing a massage therapist on a regular basis. Lewis suggests scheduling massages as regularly as will fit into your budget, somewhere between once a month and once a week.

Once you’re in the appointment, he says it’s important to speak up and not feel intimidated. Let your therapist know what your goals are and work on a plan to achieve them, he says. Perhaps that goal is pain reduction, improved flexibility, or posture improvement. Always remember that you are in control of your appointment—if you love one technique, tell your therapist you’d like them to do more of it and if you don’t like something let them know.


Just remember that lying on that massage table alone won’t get you major results, but when combined with exercise and a healthy diet, it can certainly help you get closer to those goals."


By Alexandria Gomez

Sep 19, 2017



Updated: Nov 2, 2018



Massage has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, if you need or want a massage, you can choose from among 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of pressures, movements, and techniques. These all involve pressing, rubbing, or manipulating muscles and other soft tissues with hands and fingers. Sometimes, even forearms, elbows, or feet are used.

According to a 2007 American Massage Therapy Association survey, almost a quarter of all adult Americans had at least one massage in the previous year. And, they have a wide range of reasons for doing so. More and more people -- especially baby boomers -- recognize the health benefits of massage. They choose from among many massage styles to get relief from symptoms or to heal injuries, to help with certain health conditions, and to promote overall wellness.

Here is information you can use to help you decide what types of massage will work best for you.

Which Massage Styles Are Best?

You may have noticed that different massage styles are popular at different times. And you may have wondered whether each was just part of a passing fad or the latest, greatest massage technique? Even more important is how can you tell whether the latest style will actually help you?

Styles used in massage therapy range from long, smooth strokes to short, percussive strokes. Some massage therapists use oils and lotions; others do not. Most massage therapists have clients unclothe for a massage, but some do not. A massage can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours.

Before you can decide which massage style is best for you, you need to ask yourself a question. Do you simply want a massage for relaxation and stress control? Or do you need symptom relief or help with a certain health condition? Before booking a massage, let the therapist know what you're looking for and ask which style the therapist uses. Many use more than one style. Or the therapist may customize your massage, depending on your age, condition, or any special needs or goals you have. What follows is a list of some of the more popular massage therapy styles. The first four are especially popular.


Swedish Massage

The most common type of massage is Swedish massage therapy. It involves soft, long, kneading strokes, as well as light, rhythmic, tapping strokes, on topmost layers of muscles. This is also combined with movement of the joints. By relieving muscle tension, Swedish therapy can be both relaxing and energizing. And it may even help after an injury.

The four common strokes of Swedish massage are:

  • Effleurage: a smooth, gliding stroke used to relax soft tissue

  • Petrissage: the squeezing, rolling, or kneading that follows effleurage

  • Friction: deep, circular movements that cause layers of tissue to rub against each other, helping to increase blood flow and break down scar tissue

  • Tapotement: a short, alternating tap done with cupped hands, fingers, or the edge of the hand

Neuromuscular Therapy Massage

Neuromuscular therapy is a form of soft tissue manipulation that aims to treat underlying causes of chronic pain involving the muscular and nervous systems. This medically-oriented form of massage addresses trigger points (tender muscles points), circulation, nerve compression, postural issues, and biomechanical problems that can be caused by repetitive movement injuries.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is best for giving attention to certain painful, stiff "trouble spots" in your body. The massage therapist uses slow, deliberate strokes that focus pressure on layers of muscles, tendons, or other tissues deep under your skin. Though less rhythmic than other types of massage, deep tissue massage can be quite therapeutic -- relieving chronic patterns of tension and helping with muscle injuries, such as back sprain.

Sports Massage

Developed to help with muscle systems used for a particular sport, sports massage uses a variety of approaches to help athletes in training -- before, during, or after sports events. You might use it to promote flexibility and help prevent injuries. Or, it may help muscle strains, aiding healing after a sports injury.

Chair Massage

Ever gone to a county fair, music festival, or conference and envied other people getting chair massages? Passed by the chair massage section in an airport? Or, maybe you're lucky enough to work at a company that offers 15- to 20-minute massages as a regular benefit. Onsite, chair massages are done while you're seated fully clothed in a portable, specially designed chair. They usually involve a massage of your neck, shoulders, back, arms, and hands.

Shiatsu Massage

In Japanese, shiatsu means "finger pressure." For shiatsu massage, the therapist uses varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body. These points are called acupressure points, and they are believed to be important for the flow of the body's vital energy, called chi. Proponents say shiatsu massage can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.

Thai Massage

During a Thai massage, the therapist uses his or her body to move the client into a variety of positions. This type of massage includes compression of muscles, mobilization of joints, and acupressure.

Hot Stone Massage

For this kind of massage, the therapist places warmed stones on certain areas of the body, such as acupressure points. The stones may be used as massage tools or be temporarily left in place. Used along with other massage techniques, hot stones can be quite soothing and relaxing as they transmit heat deep into the body.

Reflexology

Reflexology uses hand, thumb, and finger techniques to stimulate certain areas of the feet. These areas are believed to correspond to different parts of the body. The massage, then, is expected to promote health and well-being.

Pregnancy Massage

During pregnancy, your body goes through major changes. Pregnancy massage can help with these changes by reducing stress, decreasing arm and leg swelling, and relieving muscle and joint pain. Massage may be particularly helpful during a time when medication and other medical options may be more limited. Using specially designed massage pillows, the massage therapist will help get you into a comfortable position for this type of massage.

Hot Stone Massage

For this kind of massage, the therapist places warmed stones on certain areas of the body, such as acupressure points. The stones may be used as massage tools or be temporarily left in place. Used along with other massage techniques, hot stones can be quite soothing and relaxing as they transmit heat deep into the body.

What Are the Health Benefits of Massage?

Many types of massage offer benefits beyond simple relaxation. Here are just a few of the health problems that may benefit from massage. Ask your doctor before using massage for any health condition, though.

  • Back pain . More than one study has shown the effectiveness of massage therapy for back pain. In fact, one 2003 study showed it worked better than acupuncture or spinal modification for persistent low back pain -- reducing the need for painkillers by 36%.

  • Headache . Another type of pain -- headache -- also responds to massage therapy, as shown by more than one study. Massage therapy can reduce the number of migraines a person has and also improve sleep.

  • Osteoarthritis . In the first clinical trial looking at the effectiveness of Swedish massage for knee osteoarthritis, participants who received a one-hour massage either one or two times a week had improvements in pain, stiffness, and function. The control group had no such change.

  • Cancer. Used as a complement to traditional, Western medicine, massage can promote relaxation and reduce cancer symptoms or side effects of treatment. It may help reduce pain, swelling, fatigue, nausea, or depression, for example, or improve the function of your immune system.

  • Anxiety. A review of more than 12 studies shows that massage helps relieve depression and anxiety. It lowered levels of cortisol by up to 50%. And massage increased levels of neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.

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