Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Why massage therapy feels so good to every part of the
WHEN YOU READ the title of this story, chances are
you were immediately reminded of simpler times: The days of
preschool, when learning about anatomy was as easy as singing a
song and all you really had to worry about between naps and snack
These days, life is a bit more hectic. But that doesn't mean you
can't channel the days of old and focus on your body.
"We live in such a fast-paced society," says Melissa Wheeler, a
massage therapist and the teacher training coordinator for the
National Holistic Institute in Emeryville, Calif. "It's very rare
we have a moment to focus on our own bodies. That's one of the
healing benefits of massage; it's a meditative time to focus inward
Different parts of the body benefit from massage therapy in
different ways. Here, we walk you through why it feels so
good-head, shoulders, knees and toes, and everything in
HEAD: Cranial Sacral
Therapy or Scalp massage can be extremely relaxing. "Many
people don't realize we have muscles on our scalp," Wheeler says.
"Those muscles are responsible for making our facial expressions,
and there can be a lot of tension there, especially when staring at
a computer all day or when we are under a lot of stress."
Not only that, but the scalp tends to get ignored on a daily
basis. "It's tension we're not usually aware of," Wheeler says.
"Many people feel that tension melt away when their head is
NECK: You can blame your office job for the
stiffness in your neck. "Sitting at a desk, staring at a computer
your, shoulder blades start rising up, shortening the neck
muscles," Wheeler says. "It gets unbelievably tight." Regular
massage therapay can help loosen the muscles and prevent
HANDS: It's no wonder that our hands need relaxing.
"We use ours hands so much-for typing, clutching the steering
wheel, holding the phone, changing a light bulb, everything "
Wheeler says. "And they're usually curled up into flexion." Plus,
massage feels good because there are lots of places to focus on.
The thumb pad alone has nine muscles, she says. And the hand is
full of trigger points.
BACK: This is the part most of us think of when
imagining a massage. "But what most people do not realize is that
the back is greatly affected by the front," Wheeler says. "When you
sit in a slumped posture and don't exercise much, your abs become
weak and they can't do their part in holding up the spine. So your
back has to do extra work to compensate."
ABDOMEN: Closely connected to the back, the muscles
in your abdomen need love, too. One group in particular, the
iliopsoas, pulls on the front of your spine when tight. "It's a
typical culprit of low-back pain," Wheeler says. "It's also a very
close neighbor to the deepest back muscle, the quadratus
LEGS: Our lower limbs are complex. "We're dealing
with several interdependent joints here," Wheeler says. "Our knees
are easily affected by what's going on in the hip or the ankle."
Legs also are often prone to injury. "Massage therapists are
trained to know the range of motion of joints and can help with
healing of muscles," she says.
FEET: Our feet take a lot of abuse. "Foot pain can
be life-changing," Wheeler says. "You might not want to stand,
which often prohibits exercise, which can then lead to weight gain,
perpetuating the cycle." But reflexology foot
massage can help bring circulation to the area and even help
with mobilization of the foot bones, she says.
-By Shelley Flannery