By: Jennifer Macko ’16, University of Maryland Health Center, HEALTH Works Peer Educator
In this day and age, it seems like there’s an application for pretty much everything. You can turn in homework, play games, and check your finances from the convenient contraption you carry in your pocket. You can even work on your wellness with apps for things like nutrition tracking, mapping your walk or run, or guided meditation and deep breathing exercises.
However, one thing your smartphone absolutely can not do for you, is give you a massage.
Human touch is irreplaceable.
Sure, you could use your phone to look up directions to the nearest massage therapist, but you’ll still need an actual person to carry out the act.
Human interaction and human touch are the critical elements.
You could rub your own neck, but the relaxation and comfort of receiving a massage from another being is undeniable.
Touch is one of the first languages we use; we reach for our mother seeking security as children.
But something changes when we learn rules and manners. In today’s “touch-phobic” society, many are unfamiliar with the consensual touch of strangers or even close friends.
We hold our emotions and feelings, and thus our tensions, inside of us, in our muscles and minds.
Benefits of Massage
Massage is not only useful to release this tension physically, but the physical contact from another human being can actually cause us to release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that helps us better deal with stress.
University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute has found that touch provides the following benefits, among others:
- Lessening of pain
- Improved pulmonary (lung) function
- Increased growth in infant
- Lowered blood glucose (sugar) level
- Improved immune function to help you fight off illness and infection
Pair those benefits with the well-studied benefits of message, including, but not limited to:
- Reduction of anxiety or depression
- Stress Reduction
- Reduction of pain and muscle tension
- Treatment of digestive disorders, headaches, stress-related insomnia, strains and injuries, and sports injuries
Sound good to you?
If so, I highly encourage joining a friend you trust to try out massage. It can be awkward at first as many of us are not used to making contact with others outside of family and significant others. But soon, you’ll see that the benefits outweigh the unfamiliarity.
Some suggestions when getting started:
- Wear comfortable clothing that won’t result in any wardrobe malfunctions
- Make you and your partner know your comfort zones
- Explain what you will be working during the massage
A key part of massage to ensure that both the giver and receiver enjoy the process is using body weight rather than the force of muscle.
Use the weight of your body to gently kneed the body to where it wants to be. This is a basic principle of body mechanics. It will save you tremendous amount of effort and stop you from adding further tension to your body in the process of removing someone else’s.
Massage should be therapeutic for both the receiver and the giver.
Helpful video: How to give someone a back massage >>
If the idea of asking a friend to partake in a massage session sounds too far fetched for your tastes, consider signing up for a professional massage through the University Health Center on campus. Massages are $50 per session, or free twice a year if you have the student health insurance plan.