Massages aren’t just for weekend indulgences. Medical massage is taking therapy by storm. The American Hospital Association conducted a recent survey of hospital’s uses of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in treating patients. Of the 1,007 hospitals which responded, over 81% said their CAM offering included medical massage therapy. Between July 2013 and July 2014, over 54 million Americans discussed medical massage therapy with their doctors or other health care providers. Why? Because research is showing therapeutic massage can be an effective method of treating a broad spectrum of medical conditions.
Medical massage versus traditional massage
Before we dive into the health benefits of therapeutic massage, let’s clarify how medical massage differs from the more traditional massages you’ve used or seen in the past.
Medical massage is a therapeutic technique prescribed by a doctor of health care professional. Chiropractors are the most common source of medical massage referrals, with 13% writing at least one referral per week and 24% writing several each month. Medical massages are outcome-based. They’re designed to treat a specific discomfort or ailment and are provided by a medical massage therapy specialist with a specific outcome in mind. You could think of medical massage as the place where massage meets physical therapy.
Traditional massage, on the other hand, is a consumer service provided on demand of the consumer. When you receive a traditional massage, you go in with no prescription and pay for the service out of pocket. Medical massages, on the other hand, are often paid for by a third party. (Sounding better already, aren’t they?) Rather than approaching the massage with a specific outcome in mind, traditional massage is often used as an overall relaxation technique. The focus will be on client satisfaction as opposed to a more functional outcome.
Benefits of massage therapy
- Strengthens the immune system: Studies have found medical massage can not only help alleviate stress, which is known to correlate with an increased occurrence of illness, but may also help increase patient’s immune system’s cytotoxic capacity and reduce the number of T-cells present in the body.
- Improved post-injury and post-operative rehabilitation: Medical massage therapy is an effective means of bringing blood and nutrients to injured areas. Medical massage therapists can apply pressure to affected areas to help flush out toxins, break down adhesion, and reduce swelling in joints, thus enhancing recovery and rehabilitation after injuries or surgery.
- Lowers blood pressure: A recent study published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine found that massage therapy can be an effective means of controlling blood pressure in pre-hypertensive women. Patients in the study saw immediate results with a lower blood pressure level that lasted for as many as 72 hours following the massage.
- Relieves migraines: Studies have found medical massage can decrease the occurrence of tension headaches by relaxing trigger points and muscle spasms. It’s also been found to increase serotonin levels; serotonin is believed to play a key role in the regulation of sleep, mood, and appetite.
- Reduces chances of muscle injuries: By working on the joints, ligaments, tendons, connective tissues, and muscles of the body, medical massage can help improve patient’s flexibility and range of motion, thus reducing the chance of muscle injuries.
- Improves posture: Poor posture is the number one culprit of neck and back pain. Medical massage can loosen and relax muscles forced to work out of alignment by poor posture, thus allowing your body to rediscover its proper alignment. This will also help your joints find the freedom of movement necessary to realign your skeleton back to its natural, pain-free posture.
Massages are a wonderful thing. Even a trip to the spa downtown can provide huge benefits for your physical and mental health, but a medical massage is another thing altogether. When you get a medical massage, you’re not only undergoing a soothing relaxation technique, you’re receiving all of the six benefits listed above. From a stronger immune system to lower blood pressure and reduced chance of future injury, medical massages are full of health and wellness benefits; and this is only the beginning of what medical massage can do. If you’re interested in learning more, ask your doctor if medical massage is right for you.