By Sharon L. Wallenberg


Massage Therapy has long been considered a popular form of relaxation and pampering.  However, it also has serious medical benefits.


Massage Therapy relieves pain naturally, holistically.  The manipulation of the body’s soft tissue causes stimulation of nerves.  When the body’s nerves continue to be stimulated during the massage, the nerve receptors in the brain cannot process all the stimulations they are receiving.  Thus the massage acts as a pain block by over stimulating the nerve receptors in the brain.  Often the effects last for hours, and sometimes even days.  This eliminates the need for the use of pain medication that often has detrimental side effects.


It has long been known that Massage Therapy relieves muscle aches and pains from over use in sports or other activities.  This is because it eliminates the cause of these muscles aches.  Muscles produce energy through a chemical reaction ending with lactic acid as the final waste product.  Lactic acid can build up in the muscles causing “knots”, or “trigger points”.  This happens when the muscle cells are saturated with lactic acid, leaving no room for oxygen and nutrients.  This anaerobic condition can be very painful.  Massage therapy gently applies pressure to these areas forcing out the lactic acid and toxins to be flushed out of the body.  The pressure creates a vacuum which, when released, draws fresh blood into the muscles.  This fresh blood flow brings the necessary oxygen and nutrients to correct the painful condition.


The University of Miami School of Medicine has a Touch Research Institute where experiments have been performed using blood, urine, and saliva samples from patients before and after Massage Therapy.  The results show a significant reduction in the stress related hormones present in the samples before massage and a significant increase in relaxation related hormones after massage.  This benefit has far reaching medical consequences because stress has been proven to be a significant factor in heart disease according to the expert Cardiologists.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death, for both men and women, in the United States.


In addition to heart disease, stress has been shown to be a contributing factor in other pathologies such as gastritis, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, anxiety and depression.  Stress has been proven to inhibit certain components of the immune system, according to Han Selig, a world authority on stress.  Reducing the physiological affects of stress by  Massage Therapy not only creates a feeling of relaxation and well being, but also significantly contributes to longevity by eliminating one of the main causes of serious, life threatening illness.


Massage Therapy also relaxes and strengthens muscles.  This can be extremely beneficial in many conditions, for example: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ).  TMJ is named after the facial joint which connects the head and jaw.  It is very common for this area to be injured in auto accidents when the victim is hit from the rear.  This causes a whiplash effect to the head when snapped back and forth from the impact.  The large facial muscle that attaches to the joint tightens significantly.  Often this painful condition lasts for months or even years depending on the severity of the accident.  Massage Therapy can hasten healing by helping the muscles begin to relax and go back to their original condition.


Disc disease, herniated discs, and slipped discs happen when the vertebral discs in the spine are no longer in a normal position.  Muscles help hold the spine in place, and keep the discs in their normal position.  Massage and exercise strengthen these back muscles, helping them to hold the spine and the discs in the correct position.  The stronger the back muscles, the less likely it is that an episode of disc problems will occur.


There are many more specific conditions that can benefit from Massage Therapy.  These are only a few.  Massage Therapy is also proven to enhance the immune system. In addition, the general feeling of well being resulting from Massage Therapy is indeed a life-giving and life-prolonging experience, scientifically proven by legitimately accepted research techniques.


Swedish Massage is the most popular form of Massage Therapy.  It dates back to the 1800’s where it was first practiced by Doctors in the hospitals of Stockholm, Sweden.  It is based on the premise that improving the circulation removes impurities and toxins from the lymphatic system be be flushed out of the body through the excretory system while bringing fresh blood containing oxygen and nutrients to the cells.  All strokes go in the direction of the heart to facilitate this process.


Swedish Massage stretches muscles and tendons, removes lactic acid – the waste product of energy – from the muscles.  Stress hormones are eliminated from the body and replaced with relaxation hormones, thus relieving stress.  The stimulation of the nerves acts as a natural pain block.  Swedish Massage uses several strokes: Effleurage – long gliding soothing strokes; and Petrosage – kneading, friction, vibrating, and tappotement.  Oil facilitates the slide that is necessary on the skin to perform Swedish Massage.  It is performed on a Massage table, and the patient is draped – the portion of the body not being worked on is covered.


Hot Stone Massage uses black basalt volcanic lava rocks, which absorb and retain heat.  These are applied to the body in various places such as the palms of the hands, between the toes, points on the back, under the knees, etc.  The stones are replaced as they cool, and also used in massage strokes.  Heat facilitates healing by drawing blood to the area.  The blood brings oxygen and nutrients to the area.  The result is a maximum relaxing experience. 


Aromatherapy is often incorporated into Massage Therapy.  Aromatherapy is 6,000 years old.  It was practiced in ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt for health, healing and other uses. Essential oils are distilled from the leaves, flowers, roots, fruit, seeds, or bark of plants and trees.  These essential oils contain the immune system of the plant, flower, or tree.  Using essential oils boosts the human immune system to prevent disease transmission, and also to treat a host of maladies from insomnia, bee stings to scars.


The essential oils are added to another oil – a “carrier oil” – and applied to the body.  They enter the body through the skin which is permeable, and through the ofactory system (smell) and go directly into the bloodstream.  Essential oils are antiseptic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, antidepressant, and each one has its own distinctive therapeutic psychological and physiological properties.


During the plague in the Dark Ages in Europe, only the perfumers who worked daily with essential oils did not succumb to the plague.  Aromatherapy is pleasant, preventative and healing.


Reflexology is a form of Massage Therapy performed on the hands or feet. It is based on the scientific fact that the nerve endings in the hands and feet go to the brain and correspond with other nerves which end in other parts of the body.  It is used to stimulate parts of the body which are not readily accessible such as internal organs.  It has been used successfully to break up stones in the bladder that would have otherwise required surgery.  In addition, it can be used to treat areas that are not able to be touched such as burned or injured parts of the body.


The benefits of Massage Therapy are almost limitless, and best of all, there are no side effects, and it is enjoyable.