By: Sydney Carter ’13, Wellness Communications Assistant
“Medicine is the art of rubbing.” – Hippocrates
I have to be honest. Whenever I feel anxious about my skyrocketing stress level, or suffer from overexerted muscles after an intense workout, I crave a massage.
The obsession began when I was a little girl and my mother would treat me to a manicure-pedicure with her on the weekend. To this day the best part of a mani-pedi for me is the massage. While many teenagers host lavish sweet sixteen parties, I decided to take my three best girlfriends with me to a spa for massages.
After the hour of bliss, I am always emotionally calm and physically relaxed. I experience serenity and clarity coupled with relaxed muscles and soothed joints.
In 2006 an estimated 18 million adults and 700,000 children in the United States received massage therapy, according to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey. Research studies are popping up that provide evidence of various emotional and physical benefits from massage.
The New York Times reported that researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles conducted a study that explained how Swedish massage decreases stress and improves the immune system while even a light massage can improve a person’s contentment level as well as decrease stress. In another study reported by New York Times, scientists discovered that massage reduces inflammation in overexerted muscles and stimulates repair and recovery.
Physical benefits of massage include:
- Back pain reduction
- Sleep improvement
- Headache or migraine pain reduction
- Blood pressure control
- Immune system improvement
- Decreased fatigue
- Nausea relief
- General muscle and joint tension or pain reduction
Emotional benefits of massage include:
- Decreased anxiety
- Stress relief
- Decreased depression
- Mental clarity
Massage is considered a complementary and alternative medicine in the U.S., according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Over 80 massage styles exist; each one incorporates a variety of techniques involving pressure and movement.
Massages commonly rely on pressing, rubbing or manipulating muscles and other soft tissues with hands and fingers. Certain therapists utilize their forearms, elbows or feet as well, according to WedMD.
Here are six popular styles:
The Swedish Massage
Relax and re-energize with the long, kneading strokes and light, rhythmic taps of this style that targets the top layer of muscles and utilizes joint movement.
The Deep Tissue Massage
Give “troubled” layers of muscles, tendons or other tissues deep under your skin the healing attention they deserve with this style that uses slow, deliberate pressure to relieve patterns of tension and help with muscle injuries.
The Sports Massage
An athlete’s dream! This style works muscle systems used for a certain sport to promote flexibility and help prevent injuries before, during and after sporting events or training sessions.
The Chair Massage
Have a seat and pamper your neck, shoulders, back, arms and hands with this short, but sweet style that involves a specially designed chair.
The Shiatsu Massage
Acupressure points, vital for the body’s flow of energy, are the focus of this style involving varied, rhythmic pressure.
The Hot Stone Massage
Try something out of the ordinary and have warm stones placed at important acupressure points to transmit soothing heat deep into the body.
Have I passed my craving along to you?
Satisfy your urge for a massage on campus! Contact the University Health Center to set up and purchase a 50-minute massage that includes techniques from the popular Swedish and Deep Tissue massage styles plus stretching techniques that target important muscles and joints in the body.
Before scheduling a massage it is important to remember these words of caution:
- If interested in massage for health reasons, it is critical that you consult a physician beforehand.
- Be honest with your therapist and communicate openly with him or her. Discuss your physical and emotional problems, needs and wants to create the massage that is just right for you.
- A massage can lead to sore muscles the next day and cause moments of discomfort, such as when a therapist works out a muscle knot, but generally a massage should not cause pain.
- If pain occurs, speak up immediately and ask your therapist to decrease pressure or avoid that area. If the pain is constant, stop the massage completely.
Share with us!
What do you crave when you’re feeling stressed, overworked or just in general need of some TLC?