Massage Therapy for Chronic Pain, Stress and Anxiety
By Crystle Logan, LMT, BS, BCTMB, RMH
When people think of the word “massage” they often come up with a variety of associations. Some think of massage “parlours’ or Asian spas with less than therapeutic services, or day spas with luxuriously expensive beauty treatments. Some think of New Age hippies waving around sage and chanting unintelligible phrases whilst rubbing scented oils and herbs upon the bodies of their victims. These are the stereotypes that sincere licensed massage therapists are actively working to overcome, and with good reason.
Professional licensed massage therapists today are working to bring their trade into the medical field to receive it’s due respect- right along with physical therapists, psychologists, and medical doctors. And while the benefits of massage therapy have been touted by many ancient cultures throughout history, it’s been slow to catch on in the West due to cultural, social and economic barriers. Many researchers agree that massage helps ease muscle tension, musculoskeletal pain, low back pain, and even headaches. In the past few decades there has been more evidence that has shown that the benefits of massage therapy are even greater than previously thought. This has added a deeper layer of understanding to the plethora of benefits massage has on the body and the mind.
A study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2007 by Jennie C.I. Tsao found that massage “induces a variety of positive physiological effects that may contribute to tissue repair, pain modulation, relaxation, and improved mood.” (1) Their research shows that massage has beneficial effects on increasing arterial and venous blood flow and reducing edema. They further found that vigorous massage has been shown to improve lymph drainage and produce anticoagulant effects. They concluded that “massage may activate segmental inhibitory mechanisms to suppress pain and that some techniques may activate descending pain inhibitory systems.” (1)
Current medical science is finally understanding the important role that stress plays in our bodies. Chronic stress can be described as a hyperactive fight or flight response and often comes with increased adrenaline and cortisol levels. Studies have shown that stress is a major contributing factor in inflammation, heart disease, autoimmune disorders and many other illnesses. Therapeutic massage helps reduce stress by slowing down the body’s heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and relaxing nerves and muscles. It can even improve sleep, which in turn increases the body’s ability to heal and repair damaged cells, reduce brain fog and improve cognitive functioning.
Massage is quickly becoming a more widely accepted method of complementary treatment and preventative care for a wide range of disorders. There are now many licensed practitioners that have exceptional training and skill sets, offer affordable rates and provide professional treatments in a therapeutic setting. As we collectively move towards more holistic and natural methods to improve our health by reducing stress, anxiety and chronic pain, why not look beyond the current stereotypes of massage, and give it a try?
Citation (1): Tsao, Jennie C.I. “Effectiveness of Massage Therapy for Chronic, Non-Malignant Pain: A Review.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM 4.2 (2007): 165–179. PMC. Web. 17 Jan. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC187661i6