Massage Therapy… What is it Good For? [OPINION] A Therapist speaks out

Every week, we publish an opinion piece. A couple of weeks ago, one article about massage therapy caused quite a stir. In the interests of balance, massage therapist Glen Beckel argues the case for massage therapy… 

Recently there has been new evidence on the benefits of massage therapy, from various organizations, typically sponsored by the massage therapy community.  But even more appealing to the average person on the street is that much of the new evidence on the benefits of massage is now coming from independent universities. From this new research, the American College of Physicians and American Pain Society now include massage therapy as one of their recommended treatment plans for treating lower back pain. This, in many cases is due to some sort of muscle imbalance, for which massage therapy is best known to help.

Massage Therapy Students - 02Massage therapy really has come a long way in the past few years.  Many people have associated massage with a pampering spa treatment or, for the really ignorant, the sex trade. But for those of you that do appreciate how well you feel after a massage, there is a reason for that. If it feels good and it really is good for you.

But how does getting a massage make you feel so good? It’s simple really: a massage affects more than just the muscular system.  Even though you would go for a massage for some sort of muscular issue, you also get the added benefits of nervous stimulation from the touch of the therapist, and endocrine system balance from the relaxation aspect of a massage. Studies show that there are lower stress hormones after a massage and an increase of oxytocin, a hormone that aids wound healing. You would also get the benefits of increased blood and lymph circulation from the massage.  All of which helps in your overall health.

So when you leave from your massage you not only had a muscle issue addressed, but you have also gained the added benefit of overall balance. This is why you feel more than muscle relief from a massage.

Massage therapy has also shown through studies, at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, to help people deal with many pain related diseases. These include cancer, arthritis, chronic fatigue and a host of other ailments people deal with on a daily basis.

Now please don’t misinterpret that massage can address many of these issues. Massage therapy cannot cure someone of cancer for example but massage can help someone cope with the cancer in less pain.  This is because of the various indirect benefits massage therapy offers.

So when the rubber meets the road, I suggest that you get a massage at least once a month and your entire body will thank you for it –  not just your muscular system.  Your friends and family just might appreciate you getting a massage as well, since you might end up a little less irritable to be around.

Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below but please stick to the GURU comments policy.
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Article by Glen Beckel

March 23, 2012

Glen has been a registered massage therapist for 12 years and operates his own business FX Massage Therapy.

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2 thoughts on “Massage Therapy… What is it Good For? [OPINION] A Therapist speaks out”

  1. Glen,

    Can you define what a “muscle imbalance” is? Also what do you mean when you say “endocrine system balance”?

    Could you please explain how massage specifically addresses a “muscle issue”?

    “Lymph circulation” happens constantly as you move around and to a much greater degree than when you are being massaged. But for the bed ridden it is a boon.

    Thanks for writing this.

  2. Massage is pleasant, but proof of meaningful health benefits eludes that profession, and it’s likely to stay that way. This article only muddies the waters for health care consumers. Nearly every positive statement about the biological value of massage in this article can and should be heavily qualified or directly challenged.

    The Touch Research Institute always gets a mention in an article like this, but they are not a good source: they’ve been pumping out under-powered studies for years, many of them deeply flawed, but all with the same glowingly massage-positive results. For instance, “lower stress hormones” has been thoroughly challenged by much higher quality cortisol research conducted by Dr. Christopher Moyer — but you never see THAT research cited by massage therapists, oddly enough. And numerous studies have shown that massage does NOT “increase circulation” meaningfully (especially when compared to). And while massage has long been a candidate for the only effective manual therapy for low back pain, even the most positive studies are a little underwhelming — while it’s probably worth a try, massage therapists are generally as helpless to cure chronic back pain as everyone else.

    And so on.

    For a more critical and useful perspective on massage therapy science, see my detailed article on the topic:

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