Updated: Dec 4, 2020
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.
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.
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.
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."
Sep 19, 2017