Health Column - More than relaxing, there's a healing message in massage

By Susan Hiers
Blount Memorial Hospital

Most everyone knows how relaxing a massage can be, whether it’s through a first-hand experience or from hearing how
relaxing a family member or friend’s massage was for him or her.

But, how many people realize how therapeutic and beneficial a massage is for their bodies? From increasing circulation to combating muscle soreness and fatigue, a massage can prove to be a necessary part of stress and pain management.

By book definition, a massage is identified as the "manual manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for therapeutic
purposes." When a person receives a relaxing massage, they leave the session feeling stress-free, and their muscles feel looser. They know they are relaxed by those feelings, but there is much more happening in the body that they most commonly are not aware of.

For instance, the movement caused by the massage increases circulation of blood and lymph throughout the body. The blood is distributed throughout the muscles, increasing their oxygen intake, which ends up making the muscle more pliable and less prone to injury. Better circulation of lymph encourages faster elimination of lactic acid, or toxins, found in the body. A massage also promotes the release of endorphins into the brain.

Therapeutic massage also can help to lower blood pressure and improve immune system functioning. It helps to restore normality to tight and tense muscles by flushing out the toxins hiding in them, and creating a more-relaxed state.

Massage combats the negative effects of aging by enhancing tissue elasticity and joint flexibility, increasing joint mobility. It even has been shown as a way to lower anxiety levels, promoting a healthier emotional balance and clearer thinking.

A study conducted in 2001 showed that people who received therapeutic massage on a regular basis had decreased levels of depression and anxiety, and also had a better night’s rest than those who did not receive therapeutic massage on a regular basis.

If you sit, stand or bend over at any point during the day -- something most of us do -- your muscles are being used and may sometimes become tense from the movements.

Massage also can be a useful tool in recovery from muscular injury, like whiplash, torn rotator cuffs, strains and sprains. And when used in conjunction with a workout or sports program, massage can help improve one’s performance, as well as relieve tired and fatigued muscles.

After hearing this, you probably understand that massage is not always necessarily for relaxing purposes -- although it does have that effect on people, too. Instead, it has a therapeutic component to it, as well. That’s why everyone -- from the stay-at-home mom to the construction worker, and from the elderly to the track stars -- can benefit from massage.

For more information on how a therapeutic massage can help you, come by the Blount Memorial Wellness Center at Springbrook, and pick up a free brochure.

Information about this holiday gift-giving idea, and appointments with a licensed massage therapist, also are available by calling 865-980-7100.

Susan Hiers is a licensed massage therapist at the Blount Memorial Wellness Center at Springbrooks.

© 2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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