Imagine it’s just another day at the office — remembering that even with the upheaval we’ve been through, those typical days will return.
Now imagine a typical American office worker who is confined to sitting in a chair in front of a screen all day with meetings and much to accomplish in little time. As she works through the day, her neck and upper back start to lock down from sitting for prolonged periods of time and by 3 p.m. her head starts to hurt from ongoing tension. Not to mention the eye strain that is also impacting her posture. She sits up straight, only to find herself slumped over the keyboard a few minutes later.
This is her typical workday and the impact it has on her body day after day.
Relief is on the Way
Then in a company-wide movement for stress management and wellness, a massage therapist shows up toting his massage chair. This woman impatiently watches as the therapist is led to the conference room down the hall to set up.
Relief begins to pour through her because she knows she will be the second person in his massage chair today. She eagerly signed up last week for this new 20-minute stress-reducing option.
As she walks into the conference room, the lights are turned down, there is soft music playing, and some simple aromatherapy is wafting through the air. She feels her body immediately start to relax and asks herself, “How is this possible”? She hasn’t even sat in the massage chair yet.
She recognizes that her senses are telling her it’s been too long since she felt relief from the stress at work.
Once seated comfortably in the massage chair, the therapist rests his hands on her shoulders and just leaves them there for a few moments. The pressure sensation of those hands resting on an area of tension, warm and undemanding, gives her the feeling that someone is taking care of her, and the tension begins to melt away under that simple touch.
She begins to let go of the constant stress-dialogue in her head and moves more into the sensations in her shoulders, maybe for the first time in a long time, like a reconnecting of her body and mind. She begins to breath differently, automatically taking big deep breaths and feeling like she hasn’t really been breathing right all day, perhaps not for a long time.
As the chair massage and kneading pressure begin, she observes the tension leaving her body like running water flowing over her skin and dropping to the floor. Within five minutes, her headache and neck tension are lifted, almost to the point of nonexistence. She recognizes that this is the feeling of stress leaving her body and with each compression of those amazing hands her body relaxes further, releasing pent-up tension and muscle constriction from her neck to lower back.
The therapist spends 20 minutes working through all the areas she requested attention for and also through her arms and hands, releasing muscular tension she didn’t know was there.
It feels like her time is up too soon. However, once she stands, she feels rejuvenated, refreshed and ready for her work environment again. Sitting back at her desk, the weight of the world seems lighter and her mind is clearer. She progresses through tasks with renewed determination and finishes ahead of schedule. That normal neck and back pain do not call out to her, nor does the headache she typically has at this time of day.
As she sits there, the thought that she might actually be enjoying her job today enters her mind. It’s an empowering thought.
What this woman experienced is the potential that massage therapy has to change the effects of stress in her body. That is the power of wellness and massage therapy working together.
Chair Massage Research
Let’s look at two studies that indicate the health benefits of chair massage.
First, in a study titled “Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations”1, investigators with the Touch Research Institute (TRI) studied massage performed for workplace stress and anxiety. Adults received a chair massage while a control group of adults was asked to relax in a chair for 15 minutes, twice a week for five weeks.
“Frontal delta power increased for both groups, suggesting relaxation,” the study’s authors wrote. “The massage group showed decreased alpha and beta power, and increased speed and accuracy on math computations. At the end of the five-week period depression scores were lower for both groups but job stress scores were lower only for the massage group.”1
Second, for another study titled “Lower back pain and sleep disturbance are reduced following massage therapy”2, TRI investigators compared a massage group with a control group. All of the study’s participants suffered from chronic back pain.
“By the end of the study, the massage therapy group, as compared to the relaxation group, reported experiencing less pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance. They also showed improved trunk and pain flexion performance,” the authors wrote.
These are just a couple of the studies that indicate the benefits of massage that can translate to happier, healthier office workers.
Wellness and Massage Therapy
Both of these studies would support that massages, such as chair massage opportunities within the work environment, have the ability to lower stress and cortisol levels and help with chronic pain issues in the back, neck and shoulders. It’s plausible massage could also help protect against repetitive motion syndromes by increasing blood flow and promoting continued relaxation.
All of these benefits could additionally have effects on productivity and job satisfaction.
One pilot study, “The effects of employer-provided massage therapy on job satisfaction, workplace stress, and pain and discomfort,”3 looked at the effects of 20-minute massage sessions on job satisfaction, workplace stress, pain and discomfort. They indicated “possible improvements in job satisfaction, with initial benefits in pain severity, and the greatest benefit for individuals with preexisting symptoms,” the authors wrote, although a long-term effect was not demonstrated by this study.
“According to the American Psychological Association’s 2019 Stress in America report, work (64%) and money (60%) continue to be the most commonly mentioned personal stressors in the U.S. Additionally, according to the 2016 National Health Interview Survey, one in five American adults, or about 50 million people, suffer from chronic pain.”
There is much research that supports the need for wellness programs for office workers and how massage fits into those programs. To learn more about published research visit massagemag.com/articles/massage-research.
Working Within Wellness Programs
Utilizing the information presented to you in this article, you have the resources available to take and use in your own business. This information can be presented in a brochure about your services and/or used at appointments to speak with business owners to share the health and wellness benefits of massage therapy.
Sometimes the greatest resource you have is to just provide the opportunity that allows people to sample your services and feel the benefits of massage. Like the office worker scenario above, providing the touch experience could be your best business card and referral for opening up new markets for your own business.
1. Field, T, Ironson, G, Scafidi, F, Nawrocki, T,Goncalves, A, Burman, I, Pickens, J, Fox, N, Schanberg, S, Kuhn, C. Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. International Journal of Neuroscience. 1996; 86, 197-205.
2. Field, T, Hernandez-Reif, M, Diego, M, Fraser, M. Lower back pain and sleep disturbance are reduced following massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy. (2007); 11, 141-145.
3. Back C, Tam H, Lee E, Haraldsson, B. The effects of employer-provided massage therapy on job satisfaction, workplace stress, and pain and discomfort. Holist Nurs Pract. 2009; Jan-Feb; 23(1):19-31.
About the Author
Amy Bradley Radford, LMT, BCTMB, has been a massage therapist and educator for more than 25 years. She is the owner of Massage Business Methods and the developer of PPS (Pain Patterns and Solutions) Seminars CE courses and a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved CE provider. Her articles for this publication include “The Client’s Body Does the Healing (The MT Provides the Opportunity)” and “3 Ways You Can Contribute to a Healthy Workplace.”