To relieve aches and pains, reduce stress, and boost the immune system, a massage may be the best treatment. Gentle and noninvasive, therapeutic massage techniques can support the body’s own healing resources, aid in recovery, and soothe frayed nerves. Licensed massage therapists offer the benefits of massage in a variety of styles designed for specific needs, at rates almost anyone can afford.
Massage therapy is gaining ground as a legitimate treatment modality, used in conjunction with other therapies to treat a range of physical and emotional problems. Accredited massage schools are turning out increasing numbers of trained, licensed therapists able to work with clinics, hospitals and in private practice.
The benefits of massage are many. Massage stimulates the flow of the body’s lymphatic fluid, supporting the immune system and natural defenses against illness. It can also improve circulation by directing oxygen and nutrients into vital organs, and encourage the release of endorphins – amino acids that promote well-being and act as a natural painkiller.
Although some enjoy a massage as a luxurious treat on a special occasion, bodywork has many applications for healing. When used in conjunction with physical therapy, massage can stretch atrophied muscles, restore flexibility to joints improve range of motion. Regular, gentle massage can also promote relaxation and ease emotional states such as anxiety and depression. Massage can also reduce discomfort after surgery and shorten hospital stays.
The most common type of massage used in therapeutic settings is Swedish massage, which therapists use lotion or oil to massage muscles with a series of kneading or stroking motions. But several other kinds of massage therapies are also available.
Aromatherapy massage combines the massage with scented essential oils such as lavender or clove to address conditions such as stress or depression. Hot stone massage uses smooth, heated stones to warm and loosen various points on the body – a type of massage helpful for muscle tension and joint pain. Deep tissue massage works with pressure or strokes targeting deeper layers of muscle, which can be helpful for recovering from injury or healing from repetitive strains.
Other types of massage blend massage with other alternative healing modalities. Shiatsu, for example, uses finger pressure on acupuncture meridians without the kneading and stroking motions typical of Swedish massage. Thai massage stretches the body into a sequence of yoga-like postures, while reflexology applies pressure to points on the foot that correspond to the body’s organs and systems.