Massage for Your Health: Massage and Sleep
Massage for Your Health: Massage and Sleep
Sleep is an important aspect of health and well-being. Though there doesn’t seem to be any magic number concerning the amount of sleep people require, getting too little is associated with a number of medical conditions, and can negatively impact a person’s overall health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions—such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression—which threaten our nation’s health. Notably, insufficient sleep is associated with the onset of these diseases and also poses important implications for their management and outcome.”
Some Recent Research: Low Back Pain and Fatigue
Some recent research is helping shed light on how massage therapy can be used to help people who have difficulty sleeping. One study of how massage therapy can benefit people with lower back pain and sleep disturbances found that the massage therapy group experienced less pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance when compared to the group using only relaxation therapy.
This study comprised 30 adults with low back pain with a duration of at least six months. Randomly assigned to either massage therapy or relaxation therapy, each group had 30-minute sessions, twice a week for five weeks. On the first and last day of the five-week study, participants completed questionnaires and were assessed for range of motion. Along with the benefits for depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance, the massage therapy group also showed improved trunk and pain flexion performance.
A 2010 study investigated the effects of massage therapy for sleep quality on patients who had coronary artery bypass graft surgery. The study evaluated whether massage therapy would be effective in improving sleep quality in patients.
The 40 participants of the study were randomly assigned to a control group or massage therapy group following discharge from the intensive care unit. For three nights, the massage therapy group received massage while the control group did not. The patients were evaluated the following morning using a visual analogue scale for pain in the chest, back and shoulders, as well as fatigue and sleep.
Interestingly, pain in the chest, shoulders and back decreased significantly for both groups from day one to day three. The participants in the massage therapy group, however, had fewer complaints of fatigue on day one and day two, as well as reporting more effective sleep during all three days.
Benefits of Massage
Massage Benefits: 9 Healthy Reasons To Make An Appointment Today
Manage Anxiety And Depression
For the same reasons that a massage is relaxing, it can also soothe anxiety and depression. Massage reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, resulting in lifted spirits and often lower blood pressure. It can also boost the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in depression
Eight out of 10 Americans will experience debilitating back pain, according to Time.com, but a massage can help. According to a 2011 study, massage helped people in pain feel and function better compared to people who didn't receive any massage treatment.
"We found the benefits of massage are about as strong as those reported for other effective treatments: medications, acupuncture, exercise and yoga," Dan Cherkin, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said in a press release.
Massage has also been linked to decreased stiffness and pain, as well as better range of motion in people with osteoarthritis.
If you've ever dozed off on a massage table, you don't need to be convinced that a massage can promote healthy sleep. A number of studies have examined this link, and chalk it up to massage's affect on delta waves, the kind of brain waves connected to deep sleep, according to Health magazine.
Multiple studies, although often small, have linked massage to better functioning of the immune system.
In one 2010 study, researchers found massage increased a person's disease-fighting white blood cells. The stress-reducing powers of massage can also help keep you healthy.
At least one small study found that massage can kick pesky PMS symptoms, like bloating and mood swings, to the curb.
Want to boost your brainpower? Adults who were given a 15-minute chair massage in a small 1996 Touch Research Institute (TRI) study were more alert and completed a series of math questions faster and more accurately.
Just like muscle and back pain, headaches can also be alleviated thanks to massage. A regular rubdown can reduce a person's number of migraines, according to WebMD, as well as limit how painful each migraine feels, according to the TRI.
A 2009 study found that a 30-minute massage decreased pain for people with tension headaches, and even curbed some of the stress and anger associated with that pounding head.
A little prodding in the right places can even have beauty benefits. "Massage increases blood flow, which plumps up slack skin, encourages lymphatic drainage (the shuttling of toxins out and away from cells so that more nutrients can travel in) and adds vitality to a dull complexion and lackluster hair," Kimara Ahnert, a New York City skin-care studio owner told Women's Health.
Because of many of the benefits listed above, massage is particularly helpful for people living with or undergoing treatment for serious illnesses, like cancer. Various studies have shown that massage can relieve fatigue, pain, anxiety, depression and nausea in cancer patients.
Always ask your doctor first though.
Massage: Get in touch with its many benefits
A soothing massage can help you unwind, but that's not all. Explore the possible benefits of massage and what to expect.
Massage is no longer available only through luxury spas and upscale health clubs. Today, massage therapy is offered in businesses, clinics, hospitals and even airports. If you've never tried massage, learn about its possible health benefits and what to expect during a massage therapy session.
What is massage?
Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage therapists typically use their hands and fingers for massage, but may also use their forearms, elbows and even feet. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure.
There are many different types of massage, including these common types:
- Swedish massage. This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.
- Deep massage. This massage technique uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
- Sports massage. This is similar to Swedish massage, but it's geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
- Trigger points massage. This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.
Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It's increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.
Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.
While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:
- Digestive disorders
- Insomnia related to stress
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Paresthesias and nerve pain
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint pain
Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often involves caring, comfort, a sense of empowerment and creating deep connections with their massage therapist.
Despite its benefits, massage isn't meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you're trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.