Is massage therapy worth the investment in myself?
Can it decrease muscle tightness or pain?
Will massage therapy assist with relieving stress?
Is it a compliment to other forms of healthcare?
Inquiring is important, especially when we're ready for something new to arrive. This was one of the primary reasons I began studying Yoga, integrative bodywork and massage therapy in 2002 . Along the way, I’ve connected with fellow students and clients who were curious to know how receiving massage therapy or bodywork can be beneficial to their lifestyle and wellness. Having asked similar questions, I know it can take time to decipher clear answers from the array of choices available to us. I hope to shed a bit of light on the benefits of massage therapy and encourage you to consider the possibilities.
Massage therapy falls within complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and has been a powerful ally for me and for my clients. Over the years, I've practiced various forms of complementary and alternative medicine such as acupressure, craniosacral and massage therapy, neuromuscular and myofascial release, assisted stretching and Reiki method. Combining these modalities for clients encourages our sessions to be individualized and adaptable. Clients learn about common movement patterns and how to adjust them, helpful practices to decrease stress, therapeutic Yoga postures, and are sometimes given homework to explore at home.
You might wonder if I subscribe to one form of CAM over another. I do not because each modality has potential and purpose. Every client has a tapestry of history and will respond to varying approaches at different times in their life. This is why I prefer to alternate and combine modalities during our sessions to encourage clients to fully experience increased energy levels, decrease any discomfort and initiate a balanced stress response. If you're in the process of considering your options, here's what I propose:
- Try a few practitioners
- Explore different approaches or modalities that you feel drawn to
- Research the benefits of each discipline in relation to your health
- Consider the logistics (budget, time commitment, travel )
- Actively welcome change or a newer perspective
This brings me back to massage therapy and the benefits you will likely experience beyond your time on the table. Therapeutic massage is imperative for our sustained wellness because these hands-on practices calm the central nervous system, which is ultimately an invitation for the whole body to reconnect with homeostasis. The following list comprises some of the phenomenal ways that massage therapy helps us reach and maintain balance.
- Reduces pain & muscle tension (ex: low back, neck, hamstrings)
- Decreases stress (minimizes release of cortisol/adrenaline/norepinephrine)
- Alleviates digestive imbalances
- Minimizes headaches/migraines/TMJ syndrome
- Calms fibromyalgia symptoms
- Assists with insomnia related to stress/anxiety
- Opens myofascial restrictions/adhesions
- Helps with healing of soft tissue strains or injuries
- Decreases sports related tension
- Prenatal support, ease of movement, decrease common discomforts
- Reduces stress for chronic or life-threatening illness
- Calms chemotherapy-related nausea
- Increases circulation and energy levels
- Decreases stress in children
- Increase focus and mental clarity
- Turns off 'flight or fight' response in the central nervous system
If you found that one or some of these points resonate, maybe massage therapy is indicated. I use the word 'maybe' because a fair portion of our ability to feel and integrate the benefits of massage relates directly to our willingness to 'receive'. In other words, we must say 'yes' to the invitation to soften, give excess body stress to supportive hands and begin to explore ourselves with patient receptivity.
You might be surprised to know that the Mayo Clinic and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, amongst other health organizations and hospitals, are regularly referring to massage therapy as a beneficial practice for mitigating pain, managing medical treatment, supporting hospice care and soothing babies. From my perspective, this collective endorsement validates the advantage s of receiving therapeutic touch. It also confirms that we thrive when we feel connected and supported.
Although massage therapy may seem like a luxury or a periodic investment, this does not mean that it is any less therapeutic or beneficial to your overall health. If you've ever doubted your ability to experience vibrant well-being, remind yourself that it is an attainable goal and you always have choices in the process of cultivating balance. I humbly suggest that massage therapy is all of the above and much more.
by Dina Abbondante, LMT, ERYT, RPYT
Dina a licensed massage therapist, registered Yoga & prenatal Yoga teacher, and Reiki master. She practices integrative bodywork and massage therapy at Down Under Yoga and teaches weekly flow classes.