Massage therapy isn’t just a luxury anymore and has actually become
a vital part of health care practices worldwide. It is a holistic
therapy that has shown positive effects on physical and mental
health in addition to enhancing medical treatments. Having a massage
does more than just relax the body and mind. There are measurable
physiological and psychological changes that occur; especially when
massage is used as a preventative and continuous therapy. The
effects of massage on the body’s systems can be profound, directly
impacting our immune system, digestion, respiration, circulation,
nervous system, muscle health and more. It has been said that,
“Massage is to the human body what a tune-up is for a car.”
Experts estimate that 80-90 percent of disease is directly related
to stress, therefore, massage is one way to combat the effects of
stress and promote relaxation. In addition, massage can lower blood
pressure, increase circulation, improve recovery from injury, help
fight fatigue, promote more restful sleep and increase
concentration. Pain relief can also be achieved by the stroking of
the affected muscles to increase blood flow throughout the body.
This in turn brings oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and helps
eliminate acids and accumulated waste products. Other benefits
include relief of mental stress, peace of mind, reduction of
anxiety, and an increased capacity for calm thinking and creativity.
The satisfaction of our need for caring and nurturing touch directly
leads to a feeling of well-being.
Current research shows that more people are getting massages and as
they become more mainstream, they are now appealing to all age
groups. Recent national surveys have found that many physicians are
encouraging patients to pursue massage as a treatment. In addition,
the number of hospitals that offer massage therapy as a patient
service has increased by more than one third over the past two
years. Some employers have also found that offering massage therapy
during break times actually increased staff alertness, motivation
and productivity and reduced sick leave days.
Massage is suggested on nearly every caregiver self-help list, yet
it seems that only a small percentage actually takes advantage of
its benefits. Modesty, unfamiliarity or lack of information about
the massage experience may prevent caregivers from participating in
a valuable form of self-care and positive, healing touch. The
following paragraphs provide caregivers with the information they
will need to make an informed decision about massage.
Benefits and Results:
As a society, we are touch-deprived and this can lead to physical
and emotional challenges. From birth to the end of life, caring
touch is necessary to bring about a sense of well-being and
security. Massage offers a drug-free, non-invasive approach that
focuses on the body’s natural ability to heal and regenerate itself.
Massage has also been used as a primary intervention for caregivers
that experience stress, fatigue and insomnia. A study by the Oregon
Hospice Association and College of Healing Arts found that when
massage was offered as a respite intervention, 85 percent of the
caregivers reported a decrease in emotional and physical stress,
physical pain was relieved for 77 percent of the caregivers and
difficult sleep was eased for over half of the participants. It is
hoped that in the future, massage therapists can join hospice and
medical treatment teams to assist caregivers and patients with sore
muscles as well as offer them restfulness, compassion and peace of
It is advisable for all persons interested in massage to consult
first with their doctors to confirm that massage will be beneficial
to them. There may be some conditions where massage is not
recommended or specific techniques need to be limited. This may be
especially true for some cancer patients or those who have varicose
veins, skin inflammations, infections or tumors.
Locating a massage therapist can be done by word of mouth, through a
physician or clinic or by contacting the American Massage Therapy
Association. They represent therapists around the country and
require members to follow specific practices and a strict code of
ethics. Massage therapy services should be provided by a
professional who has received proper training in a variety of
techniques, has graduated from an accredited or approved program and
is certified, licensed or regulated by the state. Ultimately, having
a sense of trust and comfort with the therapist will reflect on the
outcome of the massage experience.
Basics of Massage:
Once the choice to have a massage has been made, it is important to
discuss general health questions, concerns and massage methods with
the therapist. This will help alleviate apprehension and maximize
the massage experience. A massage session will take place in a warm,
comfortable and quiet room on a special massage table. Soft,
relaxing music is played and the aroma of healing oils or scents may
Most massage techniques are performed with the client unclothed;
however, each person may decide what clothing to wear for their own
comfort. The therapist will leave the room to allow the client
privacy while disrobing. Clients then cover themselves with a sheet
or towel and are properly draped at all times to maintain warmth and
privacy. Only the area of the body being worked on will be exposed.
It is important to discuss with the therapist which parts of the
body need to be massaged such as back, arms, legs, feet, hands,
head, neck and shoulders. Private areas will not be touched. A
scented oil or lotion may be used to hydrate the skin and allow for
Massage techniques include: basic rubbing strokes to stimulate blood
vessels, rocking movements and the application of pressure to
specific muscle points for tension release. The average full-body
massage lasts about an hour while a half-hour session allows time
for a focus on specific areas such as the back, neck and shoulders
or legs and feet.
Most people close their eyes, listen to the music and become
completely relaxed throughout the session. The therapist may gently
move the body and talk briefly about the massage techniques that are
being used. Clients should immediately communicate any discomfort
they may be experiencing so that another approach can be taken.
Massage is the most beneficial when the body is not resistive to
touch and the client feels at ease with the experience.
Once the massage is completed, many people feel a sense of freedom
and calmness. After an initial period of feeling slowed down, people
often have an increase in energy, focus and productivity, which can
last for many days. The frequency of receiving massage therapy
varies from weekly to monthly depending on the perceived benefits,
physical and emotional results and cost factors.
Types of Massage:
There are a variety of massages and techniques offered today,
although most therapists focus mainly on only one or two types. Some
of the most common are:
Swedish Massage - the most commonly practiced form of Western
massage. It combines light stroking in one direction with deep
pressure in another direction. This technique includes kneading,
tapping, long strokes and circular pressure. It mainly loosens
the muscles and eases aches and pains for the purpose of
relaxation, rehabilitation and health support.
Deep Tissue Massage - helpful for chronic aches and pains
because the focus is on the inner muscles and connective
tissues. This uses slower strokes and more direct pressure.
LaStone Massage - a deeply relaxing treatment using smooth,
warmed basalt stones and cooled marble stones.
Shiatsu - an old oriental therapy that treats points along the
acupressure meridians and aims to release discomfort and
Reiki - a gentle but powerful Japanese energy healing technique
for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes
Trigger Point Massage - applies direct finger pressure to
painful, irritated areas of the muscle to release tensions and
break cycles of spasms and pain.
Reflexology - massage of the feet, hands or ears by pressing
points to stimulate corresponding areas of the body that are
linked to vital organs.
Rolfing - a massage that focuses on the connective tissues.
Craniosacrial Massage - a light touch manipulation of the head
and bottom of the spine that helps restore movement of the fluid
in the spinal cord. This technique can be helpful in treating
headaches, jaw problems, and back pain.
Cost of Massage:
Massage therapy ranges from $40-$100 per hour depending on the type
of massage and the expertise of the therapist. Half-hour sessions
are also offered at most massage clinics. In recent years, some
insurance companies have added massage therapy to the list of
covered medical procedures, especially if prescribed by a physician
following a car accident or job-related injury. The best
recommendation is to check with your insurance company for coverage
prior to making an appointment. Choosing to invest in massage may
be the best dollars caregivers spend to increase their capacity to
provide care in the future. Family members can also support the
caregiver by offering a gift of massage appointments.
Benefits for Caregivers:
Caregivers know the importance of caring for others yet sometimes
they forget how important it is to care for themselves. A caregiver
can become so focused on their role that they are unaware of what is
happening to their own body and how stress is affecting them.
Massage can be a wonderful way for caregivers to deal with the
demands associated with caring for a loved one and it is especially
important for replenishing the energy that is expended on helping
Studies have shown that when stress is not relieved, it can manifest
itself into illness and disease. Setting aside time for massage on a
regular basis can improve a caregiver’s overall health status,
increase energy, improve attitude and decrease stress. Many
caregivers that have experienced a soothing massage have reported
that they actually felt the tension melt away and felt reconnected
to their own sense of self. Receiving a nurturing massage can remind
caregivers what it means to be cared for and it upholds the value of
what they give to others. Allowing themselves to be “cared for” now
and then is valuable and necessary to their own survival. Opening up
to positive touch and support reflects their own joy of giving and
reminds them why they are steadfast in their role as a caregiver.
Massage restores a sense of wholeness for caregivers that may not
have been felt for some time. It is a perfect potion for good health
and it enhances a positive “mind-body-spirit” connection. By
producing a meditative state, massage can provide emotional and
spiritual balance and it allows for true relaxation and peace.
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