To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Sauna Benefits Flexibility,” by Michele Olson, Ph.D., F.A.C.S.M., C.S.C.S., in the December 2013 issue. Article summary: One key to a long massage career is physical flexibility on the part of the therapist. In a study on which I was the lead researcher, we looked specifically at how full-spectrum infrared sauna benefits flexibility.
Full-spectrum infrared sauna therapy will enable you to take your massage practice to the next level.
I led a study in which we looked at flexibility. We found doing the same stretching routine while in the full-spectrum infrared sauna, which emits near-, mid- and far-infrared wavelengths, versus doing it without sauna, yielded superior acute changes in flexibility.
Both situations enhanced range of motion, but doing the stretch routine while exposed to the sauna elicited higher, greater and more pronounced changes in acute range of motion in the hip, hamstrings and low back.
Consider this happened with study participants doing the work of stretching; then imagine the combination of deep-tissue massage on a body that has already seen these improvements simply from deep, gentle infrared rays. Clients coming to the table directly from the sauna would already have increased blood flow to tissues and decreased friction forces, so joints would be more maneuverable. Muscles should then have a heightened response to massage, and the rate at which clients realize changes in flexibility will be enhanced.
Imagine this scenario compared with a client who comes in with his muscles tightly coiled and cold, which could limit all you would like to accomplish during your time together.
Odds are, you already use heat in your practice, be it hot stones, heating pads or a heated bed. While these warm the skin and are relaxing, far-infrared heat penetrates more deeply into muscles. Simply giving clients a few easy stretches to do in the sauna before a massage engages them in their progress. They become an active participant in their own massage therapy.
Michele Olson, Ph.D., F.A.C.S.M., C.S.C.S., is well-known for her research on Pilates, energy expenditure and abdominal training (www.micheleolsonphd.com). She is a professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery and the lead research investigator at the Scharff-Olson Human Performance Lab. Often quoted in the women’s and fitness magazines, including Prevention, Self and Fitness, she is known as the exercise doctor.