ME Magazine

Head-to-Toe

8 full-body benefits for getting your regular massages – besides feeling great

You look forward to your regular massage. Maybe it relaxes you. Maybe it energizes you. Maybe it helps relieve the tension in your back. Whatever it is, you know you like it. But massage has more benefits than you probably realize.

"Regular massage keeps the body working at optimal levels," says C.G. Funk, VP of industry relations and product development for Massage Envy. "It keeps people well-physically and emotionally."

Here are eight interesting benefits of massage for your body.

1. Fighting Fibromyalgia Symptoms Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by muscle pain, fatigue and tenderness, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Symptoms can be brought on or exacerbated by stress and lack of sleep. Frequent Fibromyalgia massages have been found to help relieve stress as well as alleviate muscle pain, discomfort and spasms in patients suffering from fibromyalgia. In fact, it's one of the most effective complementary treatments, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association, which reports that about 40 percent of sufferers have used it as part of their treatment plan.

2. Easing Surgical Effects Postsurgical rehabilitation is one of the most important aspects of undergoing any procedure. And massage can help get you back on your feet by increasing circulation, relaxing muscles, and improving joint movement and flexibility. It's even been found to promote tissue regeneration and reduce postsurgical adhesions and swelling, according to the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals.

3. Improving Mood It's no secret that massage can relax you and make you feel good mentally. But did you know that it may even help treat anxiety and depression? According to a review by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, massage is able to lower the body's level of cortisol, a stress hormone, by as much as 53 percent. Massage also appears to increase the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine.

4. Headache Relief Approximately 28 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, according to the National Headache Foundation. Often, migraines are triggered or exacerbated by stress and poor sleep. In a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers found that participants who received massages had better quality sleep and fewer migraines than participants who didn't. Effects even lasted up to three weeks after therapy ended. Massage therapy can help relieve headaches if you suffer from them.

5. Lowering Blood Pressure About 72 million Americans have high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and heart attack. A study in the journal Biological Research for Nursing found that people who had at least three 10-minute back massages a week lowered their blood pressure more than people who spent the same amount of time just relaxing.

6. Increasing Flexibility Whether you're an avid athlete who is constantly putting stress on your knees or a middle-aged adult who has lost some range of motion in your hips, staying flexible is key. Massage can help you maintain flexibility and range of motion by working the muscles, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments, and by stimulating the production and retention of the natural lubricants between the connective tissue fibers.

7. Breaking Back Pain While back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek massage, many are not aware of just how helpful a treatment it is. In fact, a study in theAnnals of Internal Medicine found that massage therapy was more effective at relieving back pain than other therapies such as acupuncture and spinal modification. It even appeared to reduce the use of painkillers by 36 percent.

8. Curbing Carpal Tunnel Carpal tunnel is a painful condition in which the median nerve that connects the forearm and hand becomes pinched at the wrist, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Symptoms include burning, tingling or numbness in the palm, thumb and middle fingers. It can also lead to difficulty forming a fist or gripping small objects. Treatments usually consist of medication, wrist braces and surgery. But a study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement reported that carpal tunnel patients receiving regular massage had less pain, reduced symptoms and improved grip strength.

-By Shelley Flannery

-Photos by Jeff Newton