There are many ways massage could help, but simply put, the benefits of massage tend to fall into three categories ...
- Physical – the organic processes and structures of our body benefit from massage therapy directly
- Psychological – massage can impact our mental state
- Emotional – whether directly affecting how we feel emotionally, or indirectly thanks to the physical and psychological benefits, massage can help improve our emotional state, both in how we feel in ourselves and about ourselves
As a massage practitioner, I find most people book a massage with one purpose in mind. But whether you seek to reduce your stress levels, relieve aches and pains, resolve muscle imbalances or to relax, massage therapy will work to help make improvements and benefits throughout your whole body.
Physical Benefits of Massage
Massage connects skin on skin, but works to benefit the physical body on a number of levels, including the skin, muscle, circulatory system, nervous system, digestive system, respiratory system ... in short, the physical benefits of massage can impact the whole body.
The level and nature of the massage benefits will vary depending upon intention and the practitioner's intentions. For example, by placing my hands over your ribcage, and merely holding and shadowing the movement as you breathe, can bring your awareness to your breath, helping you relax in both mind and body. Alternatively, swift ‘percussion’ strokes sweeping up your legs can encourage and stimulate both the lymphatic and circulatory systems to encourage the flow of nutrients to cells throughout your body (be that muscle or vital organ) and help to improve and relieve congestion through that part of the body.
Psychological Massage Benefits
As the physical state of your body changes as a result of massage, so can your psychological state, whether you are aware of it or not. In fact, massage can enhance your experience of your body, for example, holds allow you to bring your awareness into the area of your body being held with a focus and intensity that can be challenging in our busy 21st Century lives, while percussion and swiftly sweeping strokes provide an energy that is likely to be reflected in an increase in alertness both physically in the area worked, but mentally in your connection between mind and body. Either way, the psychological benefits of massage include the most obvious sensation of an ability to 'tune in' to your body, whilst fostering a peace of mind.
With medical research investigating the link between disease and stress, and some estimates suggesting that between 40% and 80% of all visits to GPs may be directly related to stress, the importance of reducing stress has never been clearer. A small study published at the end of 2012 suggested that regular massages could directly impact hormone levels in the body, including lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. I have a number of clients who experience panic attacks or suffer from anxiety, and for whom seeking a massage is part of their way to manage their symptoms. However, massage therapy also helps to provide them with a place of peace and calm, where it is ok to investigate the physical symptoms of their anxiety or panic attacks, and to explore another way of being in their body that is more controlled, aware and present.
Emotional Benefits of Massage
The two examples of massage techniques I have discussed, can also demonstrate the way in which massage can benefit your emotional state. Holds are very soothing and calming, providing the nurturing reassurance of touch, while energizing percussive work can help to imbue a greater sense of well being and personal connectedness. Part of my role as a massage therapist is to create and provide a place of peace and tranquillity where you experience a quiet and nurturing environment in which you feel safe enough to relax, to switch off from your day to day life, and zone in to 'how you are'.
The physical benefits of massage come from relieving tight muscles, which can in turn help improve circulation, joint mobility and flexibility. As a result, this can help you to move more freely and ease many short and long-term niggles. But massage therapy goes further than just the physical body - psychologically and emotionally you are provided with a caring space in time to help soothe and quieten your busy mind, reduce stress and help you reconnect the ‘whole person’ so you may be complete once more. Several of my clients have long term chronic conditions or life limiting illnesses and find that massage helps them to live with the symptoms of these conditions. But whatever your reason for seeking massage, relaxation induces a feeling of physical, mental and emotional well being.
As a massage therapist I am obviously going to be biased, but the benefits of massage are quite remarkable. Whether you are seeking a physical, psychological or emotional benefit from massage therapy, my aim and drive is to help you be the best that you can be in your body, and to feel more connected with yourselves.