The Fourth of July comes just once a year, but your independence from pain and stiffness can be within reach every day with regular massage therapy sessions. Whether your goal is to keep your body limber and relieve soft tissue pain or improve sleep and reduce stress, ongoing massage sessions can deliver these benefits and more in a natural, healthy manner.
Here, veteran massage therapists, educators and authors Sandy Fritz and James Waslaski, L.M.T., C.P.T., weigh in on the ways in which the consistent use of massage therapy can help you declare your own Independence Day—with freedom from pain and stiffness.
1. Independence from Stiffness
When your body is tight and sore, it can be challenging to move with freedom, even when it comes to simple tasks such as carrying groceries or picking something up.
Regular massage can counteract such limiting stiffness for a more limber body. “Think about a piece of clay—when you work it, it gets warmer and more pliable,” Fritz said. “The pressure and the twisting and the stretching that massage movements apply to the soft tissues help keep your body pliable.”
2. Independence from Pain
The ability of massage to increase limberness and make the body more pliable plays into reducing soft tissue pain. “When certain muscle groups become tight, they can press on nerves and restrict joint movement,” Waslaski said.
“When therapists release and balance tight muscles, the joint space and joint movement is increased,” he continued. “There is also less pressure on involved nerves. That can reduce the pain in the joints and in the muscles and the referral pain from nerve compression.”
3. Independence from Severe Discomfort
For those who seek independence from severe pain and stiffness, ongoing massage combined with analgesics may help even more. Along with over-the-counter pain medication, massage can assist in reducing the inflammation associated with acute pain.
“Where massage crosses over with certain analgesics is the anti-inflammatory effect, and massage can reduce the tendency for inflammation to occur,” Fritz said. “In that way, massage can be supportive of some over-the-counter pain relievers and maybe even reduce dependency on them.”
4. Independence from Insomnia
Thanks to the pain relief and relaxation that come from regular massage, a subsequent benefit may be better sleep.
“When your soft tissues no longer feel all bound up and stiff and your nervous system no longer feels like it has to be on high alert, you move from fight-or-flight responses into a physiology where we feel safer, called the parasympathetic nervous system,” Fritz said. “That’s our rest-and-restore system, and sleep is part of that process.”
5. Independence from Stress
Stress relief and relaxation are among the most well-documented benefits of massage. For example, a study featured in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that Mayo Clinic nurses who received one 15-minute massage per week for 10 weeks experienced a significant improvement in stress and anxiety.
“Massage creates changes in the chemicals of the brain to reduce stress,” Waslaski said. “It also takes clients away from their often intense schedules to have time to slow down and relax.”
About the Author
Brandi Schlossberg is an avid bodywork client and full-time journalist based in Reno, Nevada. She has written on many topics for MASSAGE Magazine, including “Athletic Performance: Can Massage Make a Difference?”