Lie down & reap the benefits
You may think of a massage as a luxury treat, or perhaps something you turn to as a last resort when your back or muscles feel particularly tight.
Evidence shows that having regular massage leads to numerous health benefits, some of which may be surprising, like fewer headaches and migraines, improvements in sleep, lower blood pressure and reduced depression and anxiety.
As well as reducing symptoms of back and joint pain, and some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis, studies have also found that massage can help to reduce nausea and digestive issues and boost immunity.
How does it work?
One of the main ways that massage helps to reduce ill health is by improving blood circulation. This results in more oxygen being delivered to all of the cells in the body, and more toxins being removed from these cells. Certain types of massage like lymph drainage massage can also help to reduce any localised edema (swelling) caused by inflammation in the body.
The relaxation effect of massage not only makes you feel calmer and happier, but also helps to lower heart rate, reduce blood pressure and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Although cortisol has a role in the maintenance of good health, too much cortisol is linked to conditions such as heart disease and poor immunity as well as being linked to weight gain.
Ok, I’m convinced, but which should I go for?
Massage therapists use long smooth strokes, kneading, and circular movements on superficial layers of muscle using massage lotion or oil. Swedish massage therapy can be very gentle and relaxing.
Deep tissue massage
For those who like to feel it! Deep tissue massage targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue and is mostly used to relieve pain, muscular aches, postural problems and recovery from injury.
Shiatsu is a Japanese massage system that uses finger pressure in a rhythmic sequence on different areas of the body known as acupuncture meridians. Each point is held for two to eight seconds to improve the flow of energy and help the body regain balance.
As with Shiatsu, Thai massage uses gentle pressure on specific points to align the energy in the body. Thai massage also includes compressions and stretches as the therapist moves you into a sequence of postures.
Reflexology involves applying pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. The massage technique aims to stimulate the nerve endings in the feet and sends signals along the nerve pathways to the central nervous system where they are transmitted to the corresponding part of the body or organ being worked on.
How to perform a home massage
If you can’t afford the time or money to have regular massages, there are many techniques you can use at home and reap the benefits. Using props such as a massage ball, a foam roller or even a tennis ball can help to alleviate tight and sore muscles. Or simply using some massage oil and performing long hand strokes with a bit of pressure whether it’s on your feet, legs or arms can also boost circulation and provide a quick respite from the stresses of everyday life.
Written by Ruth Tongue