I use massage as a regular part of my chronic pain management. The other benefits of massage are welcome perks.
Five Reasons Massage Is Beneficial
- Relieves stress: Massage therapy promotes a state of relaxation and encourages a reduction in stress. Obviously pretty much every single person could use this benefit. What we are looking at is a reduction in the hormone cortisol, a reduction in blood pressure, and a boost in mood. A 2002 study found it decreased heart rate, blood pressure, and promoted relaxation. Reduced blood pressure can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health, more generally.
- Relieves general muscle pains and helps with chronic pain: Massage therapy improves muscle tension and range of motion and can prevent injury from exercise. It can also lower fatigue, stiffness, and inflammation after exercise (check this source for all the wonderful exercise benefits of massage). Not to mention it is used to reduce pain in a number of chronic pain conditions which is a significant benefit all its own. A 2011 study on chronic back pain found it to be an effective treatment with the benefits lasting up to six months. A 2011 study on fibromyalgia found myofascial release techniques helped with pain and quality of life long-term. Short-term the study found treatments immediately helped with quality of life, pain, anxiety, and sleep. These are just a few examples of research indicating massage therapy assists with pain management.
- Decreases anxiety and depression: Massage therapy is soothing and it is this that can affect mood. These are two fundamental benefits. There have been a few studies that show it can help with both anxiety and depression. In 2005 a study on women diagnosed with breast cancer found regular massage treatment reported less anxiety and depression with an increase in dopamine levels. A meta-analysis study in 2010 found massage therapy significantly reduced depressive symptoms. A study in 2008 reflected a decrease in anxiety after a 20-minute treatment of myofascial techniques.
- Decreases tension headaches: If you are prone to headaches, research suggests that massage therapy can be a real benefit to decrease the frequency. A study in 2009 concluded that even one session of massage therapy decreased tension, anger, and the perception of chronic tension headache pain. There is further research that it can reduce the frequency, duration, and intensity of the headaches which then decreases medication use.
- Helps with sleep: Massage therapy can help improve sleep. It can improve sleep in people with insomnia, insomnia related to pain, and other conditions. One study in 1999 looked at elderly patients and sleep. It found that massage therapy reduced nocturnal waking and their quality of sleep scores improved.
Types of Massage
I use massage as a regular part of my chronic pain management. Until I researched it I never considered the other benefits there were, and certainly, results depend on frequency and type of massages one gets. Here are the basic types of massages to consider:
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- Swedish massage: This is the most common massage and is often simply referred to as massage therapy. It is gentle and soothing utilizing five basic strokes of the soft tissue of the back. If you have never had a massage, I would recommend this one for stress reduction, relaxation, increased circulation, and relaxation of tense muscles.
- Aromatherapy massage: massage therapy with the addition of scented essential oils for certain needs. Great for stress reduction with lavender.
- Hot stone massage: As one might anticipate, hot stones are placed on the back in various locations and used to massage your back. Due to the heat, this is great for muscle tension.
- Deep tissue massage: This massage is for the connective tissue and deeper layers of muscles. It is not unusual to feel sore for a couple of days. It is generally used for recovery from injury or chronic muscular pain. I have had this at 1/3 the strength of an average person since I have fibromyalgia. And it hurt so much for quite some time. So I recommend a good massage therapist and make sure you never tense during the therapy. It also reduces inflammation and pain due to arthritis.
- Trigger point massage: This massage focuses on specific trigger points or problematic areas the person has and relaxes them. In general, used for myofascial pain. Trigger points can be tight and refer pain to other areas. I had this issue in my neck and the pain was referred to my shoulder, causing an inability to rotate the shoulder for example.
- Shiatsu: A Japanese form that focuses on acupuncture meridians. Localized finger pressure held for about five or so seconds to balance energy flow.
- Thai massage (nuad bo rarn): Also specific on points to align energy flow. Although this also includes compression and stretches to increase the range of motion.
- Reflexology: A foot orientation massage that focuses on certain points located on the foot that corresponds to other locations, systems, and organs, on the body.
- Sports massage: For active people and designed to prevent injury and recover from exercise. It will relax the muscles, and increase motion and flexibility. It can also prevent injury.
There Are Countless Benefits
The benefits of massage are well researched. I barely even scratched the surface of that mountain. Just stress reduction alone makes it well worth it due to lowering cortisol and blood pressure. But for me, it is chronic pain management as long as you get the right massage therapist. I personally have never seen the benefits for depression and sleep. Or at least, not noticeable for an impact, but then chronic pain does make for a mighty impressive impact of its own in those areas. Nevertheless, massage therapy is on my list of things that help with chronic pain. The main concern is being able to afford it enough for it to make a significant impact on pain management, however, that is an issue with all alternative treatments.
- Massage Therapy for Health Conditions | American Massage Therapy Association — American Ma
Site for research on massage for health conditions
- Glossary of Massage and Bodywork Techniques
A glossary of all the types of massages one can get.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.