When you hear the word “massage,” your first thought is probably of luxury. Maybe you imagine a spa day or a smiling stock photo person with little cucumber slices over their eyes. You probably don’t think of it as an important part of your health routine.
“Massage is good for overall relaxation,” said Valerie Blakley, a licensed massage therapist practicing in Winder, Georgia. “Even though we have not always related massage to health benefits — we’ve looked at massage more like a luxury — [there are] far more benefits health-wise than as a luxury.”
Relief or reduction of both physical and mental pain is massage’s most well-known benefit. Countless studies have linked massage to pain management, including one in 2016 which reviewed the results of over 60 studies looking at the use of massage for pain relief. A 2015 study also found that brief, twice-weekly massage sessions significantly reduced the stress of nurses working in intensive care units.
Personally, a good source of stress relief is valuable enough to be worth the time, money, and effort.
Scientifically, the research has been more clear on the evidence that massage does work than the evidence on how it works. For most people, the fact that it works is enough. As a result, massage therapy is used to treat or alleviate symptoms for a variety of conditions.
“I think more doctors are starting to recognize that,” Blakley said. “That’s why more doctors and chiropractors and even hospitals are starting to hire massage therapists into their practice.”
However, insurance carriers haven’t caught up. Of all the ways health insurance companies in the United States short their clients, refusing to cover massage therapy is hardly the most egregious, but it remains one of many things that should change to reflect a new understanding.
“De-stressing, anxiety, depression, blood circulation… fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, chronic fatigue, insomnia. Massage is good for so many things I could not begin to list them all here,” Blakley said.
Money is not the only barrier to incorporating massage into your routine.
“There are some people who can’t go to [get a] massage, not necessarily because of money. They just can’t seem to carve out the time,” Blakley said. “My own schedule is so busy, I have had to incorporate self-massage.”
Self-massage is an important and viable alternative to a licensed massage therapist.
“There are certain things you can do to give yourself relief at home,” Blakley said.
She recommends that people interested in self-massage seek out books on pressure points or look up self-massage instructions on the internet.
“Whatever you do to keep yourself healthy, massage should be incorporated at least once a month,” said Blakley.
Certainly it doesn’t hurt anyone to give massage therapy a try. At the very least, you’ll come out a little more relaxed for the wear.