Supporting your practice with massage therapy

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Well-being and health have always been important to people.  Being happy and having peace of mind, as well as having a strong and flexible body to enjoy life with, are (or should be) goals of all of us.  Therapeutic massage can be a powerful way to help people in achieving these goals.  Whether physically through perfecting balance and strength, or mentally by increasing the level of good hormones to improve mood, there are many real world benefits of massage.

Neuromuscular therapy, a type of massage is a medically oriented form of massage based on physiological laws and principals, pays close attention to alignment, condition of soft tissue, and the release of adhesions and restrictions throughout the body. It aims to treat underlying causes of chronic pain involving the muscular and nervous systems.[1] It can help alleviate many medical problems, large and small, through working on trigger points (pressure points) found throughout the body.

As yoga practitioners, these benefits are of particular importance to us.  Frequent massage can improve our quality of life by alleviating the post-exercise soreness that can come from a rigorous workout.  "Practicing massage therapists know that people who get massage regularly demonstrate greater improvement and ... reduction in pain and muscular tension, as well as an improvement in posture," says Anne Williams, author of Spa Bodywork: A Guide for Massage Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006) and education program director at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. A recent study has shown that massage can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines which may be involved in pain. More traditional methods of reducing inflammation - the use of NSAIDS - may, while reducing pain, interfere with the immune system’s ability to heal the affected part of the body. Thus, Neuromuscular Massage can work towards reducing NSAID use, which in turn can boost the healing process.[2]

Medical professionals know that disease progression can be stress-related, and our own experiences show us that nothing wears on us faster - inside or out - than the effects of stress. However, stress might never reach those physiologically detrimental levels if you are able to receive stress-relieving bodywork on a regular basis. “Not only would your body benefit by regularly unleashing its aches and pains instead of adapting to them, but your mind would have time to wash away the stresses of a life lived in overdrive.”[3]

It is important to realize that the benefits that come from massage are multiplied by frequent, regular treatments.  The Journal of Body work and Movement Therapy reports that massage therapy versus relaxation therapy with chronic low back pain patients was evaluated for reducing pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances, as well as improving trunk range of motion over a 5-week period. The study evaluated thirty adults who had been suffering from low back pain for at least 6 months. After the end of the 5-week study, the massage therapy group reported less pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance, and showed improved trunk flexion.[4]  This demonstrates not just the effectiveness of massage, but the effectiveness of REGULAR massage over time.

So, while we already know therapeutic massage can address injuries, scar tissue, and chronic pain, regularly scheduled neuromuscular massage therapy can be a powerful ‘force multiplier’ in maintaing your body on a ‘workout-to-workout’ basis, AND also be an investment in your long-term health.