It’s no secret that I work for a massage table manufacturer. I’m also a bit of a massage junkie. By junkie, I mean that I have at least one 90-minute massage weekly (thanks Beth!) and at least two 15-minute chair massages at work each week. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that provides a massage therapy program for its employees, so I realize that my access to massage is a bit more than the average.
My love for massage began long before this particular job. It began in my marathon training years, a time when I’d virtually stumble in the door of my local massage clinic after long weekend runs. To say I was in pain would be an understatement. Yet, as if by miracle, I’d leave the massage clinic a new person, one who, despite her terrible running technique and mediocre cardiovascular ability, managed to power through a number of marathons and half-marathons. Let there be no question: I credit massage.
I suppose it’s no surprise, then, that I’ve become a bit of an advocate for the benefits of massage. I tout the benefits to friends fighting illnesses (with the disclaimer, of course, that I’m no physician) and I gift massages to family members nearly every year over the holidays. Recently, a girlfriend asked me out for drinks and, as much as I would have enjoyed them (mama sure loves a Mojito!), I was forced to ask for a rain check. Why? Because the proposed happy hour conflicted with my weekly massage and it has become critical to my overall well-being and sanity. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not.
Massage is more than a feel-good escape (although that it certainly is), it’s truly beneficial to both the mind and body. Don’t believe it propelled me through a few grueling marathons? Read on. If you’re not convinced, I’m not very good at my job.
Massage Keeps You from Getting Sick
Doubtless, you’re wondering how I’m making that claim. Well, I’m not. Scientists and researchers already have. In a recent Cedars-Sinai study, researchers found that those receiving even moderate-pressure Swedish massage saw increases in white blood cells. If you remember anything from high school science, you might recall that white blood cells indicate a notable boost in the immune system.
Massage is a Stress Reducer
In that very same study (amongst others), researchers discovered that moderate-pressure Swedish massage led to decreased stress hormones. With stress acting as the foundation for a slew of other illnesses (and being an outright pain for most of us anyways), this is good news. In fact, this is more than just good news: This is fantastic news. Put down that stress ball, people.
Massage Connects You to Others
The power of touch is rather extraordinary. Researchers and body workers alike have long touted the importance and the bonding potential of touch. We know this not simply from studies of massage therapy, but from our own experiences with touch. In the appropriate context, touch is comforting. In fact, the simple touch of a mother’s skin has been known to work miracles for premature and ill newborns.
Testament to this, volunteers who received “light touch” treatments in the Cedars-Sinai study indicated increased oxytocin levels, a natural hormone known to promote bonding. In laymen’s terms, this tells us that massage not only relieves stress and boosts the immune system, but that it can have emotional benefits as well. Feeling disengaged from someone … massage just might be the answer.
Massage is an Escape from Reality
Admittedly, I can be a bit of a scatterbrain. I’m a working mother of two, a wife, and a full-time student. I try, as much as I’m able, to have a social life, to speak something other than baby-talk, and to wear socks that actually match. Occasionally, I even try to go on a date with my husband. Alas, the realities of life sometimes prevent regular escape. And, if I’m honest, I’m pretty desperate for escape every now and again.
Massage gives busy parents, professionals, and students an opportunity to escape reality and return refreshed. In a world of exponentially increasing stimuli, I cherish the time I have to let everything else fall away, to turn off my ever-scattered thoughts and relax. Massage is my moment of bliss. Just mine. No one else’s. Mine. (Yes, mama grizzly is coming out!)
Massage Just Feels Good
You don’t need me to cite a study to know that, do you? Even if you aren’t convinced of the physical and emotional benefits, there’s no denying the fact that massage just plain feels good. If you like deep tissue or sports massage, it can even “hurt so good.” “Good” is, of course, the operative word here.
The Crux of It
The truth is that the benefits of massage are so many that they’d be difficult to broach in their entirety here today. I hope, if anything, this sampling of information has encouraged you to consider regular massage. If you aren’t sure it’s in your budget, do some research. There are affordable massage programs out there. Ask your employer if they might be willing to subsidize a program to keep their health costs down. Know a massage therapist? Ask them if they might be willing to swap a session for, say, those fabulous apple and cherry pies you bake every year in October. Consider how important your overall health and wellness are. How much would you pay to prolong it? Figure it out and book that massage!