Health & Medicine

If you think getting a massage is an overindulgent luxury, think again.

Cathrine Weaver
Cathrine Weaver

Massage is often seen as a luxury that helps with relaxation. The American Massage Therapy Association reports that 28 percent of people who get a massage state it is to reduce stress and relax. However, massage is also a beneficial, non-invasive way to help improve your health.

Seeing a licensed massage therapist to reduce stress can provide the health benefits of reducing blood pressure, improving quality of sleep and help you cope better with everyday life demands, but massage can do so much more.

Research conducted between 2008 and 2012 by the National Center for Complementary Integrative Health showed that massage can help with chronic back or neck pain, and pain associated with arthritis.

Massage also can relieve discomfort from sore muscles, help with range of motion, promote healing by increasing circulation to areas related to injury, reduce episodes of headaches, boost your immune system, and even help with problems related to carpal tunnel syndrome.

For those effects to be beneficial, visits to your massage therapist should be done regularly.

Health maintenance of any type, whether good eating habits, exercise, health checkups or stress management, create positive effects when done as a regular habit. This is also true of massage. Getting a massage once in a while to treat yourself is a temporary moment of relaxation, but regular massage creates a cumulative effect for your body and your mind.

Sitting at a computer every day for hours can create constant tightness in shoulder and neck muscles. As a result, you may find it difficult to turn your head, or you may experience frequent tension headaches. Regular massage can help counteract those effects by gently, gradually loosening the tension. The long-term effect is fewer headaches, more relaxed posture and probably better concentration.

Finding the right massage therapist for your needs requires good communication. These guidelines can help:

▪  Ask about the massage therapist’s education, licensure and practice history.

▪ Be clear about your goals related to getting a massage.

▪  Share information about any health conditions.

▪ Tell your doctor that you are seeing a massage therapist.

▪  Be sure you understand all fees, including insurance coverage.

▪ As with all integrative health practices, you should not use massage to replace your regular medical care.

Getting a regular massage can be a wonderful addition to your self-care habits, helping to ease harmful effects of our fast-paced lives and enhance well-being.

Cathrine Weaver, a board-certified holistic practice registered nurse, is coordinator of Integrative C.A.R.E. and the Wellness Center at Baptist Health Lexington.

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