Using massage to manage blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis

When was the last time you had a massage? If it’s been years, you may want to book an appointment right away!

The idea of massage as a self-indulgent luxury is a thing of the past. There’s a good reason that professionals trained to give massages are called massage therapists.

The first massages date back to 3000 years ago in ancient China. The Ancient Greeks, Hindus, Persians, Egyptians, French, Swedish, Thai, Indian and Japanese all had their own specific massage techniques, many of which have become part of modern-day massage therapy.

The health benefits of massage, both preventive and corrective, are well-researched, and have been experienced by a wide range of people.

Massage isn’t just a way to relax. It promotes health, alleviates pain, and slows the progress of disease.

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The many health benefits of massage

The following is just a partial list of the ways massage therapy can improve your health and your life.

1. Massage helps manage hypertension. Getting a massage regularly can spare you the need for long-term medication use to control blood pressure.

A 2013 study at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran looked at a group of fifty pre-hypertensive women. After receiving Swedish massage for 10 to 15 minutes, three times a week for 10 sessions, their blood pressure was significantly lower than in pre-hypertensive women who had not received massage.

Even more important, this lowered blood pressure continued for up to 72 hours after the massage.

2. Massage improves quality of life for people with diabetes. According to Jim Gialelis, a licensed massage therapist in Tempe, Arizona, diabetes patients can expect the following five positive effects from massage therapy:

  • Increased circulation, which can improve cellular intake of glucose
  • Relaxation, which helps the body restore and maintain balance and function
  • Increased mobility and tissue elasticity, which encourages physical activity and improves the ability to perform daily tasks
  • Relief of pain and thickening tissue over scar sites, which also increases mobility
  • Restored nerve function and sensation in areas of neuropathy

3. Massage relieves depression. Massage therapy can alleviate the physical symptoms that go hand in hand with depression, including tightened muscles, bent posture and stiff neck.

A review of data from 17 studies involving 786 people revealed that, in all cases, depressed patients receiving massage therapy saw significantly more improvement of physical symptoms than patients who did not.

4. Massage can help you stop smoking. The need to smoke usually involves anxiety and the need to relieve stress. Massage therapy helps calm this need and can be an important part of a smoking cessation program.

One study even found that self-massage can be effective in reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms and reducing the number of cigarettes smoked.

5. Massage boosts the immune system. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles reported that people who received a 45-minute massage had an increased number of lymphocytes (white blood cells), which defend the body from disease.

Massage also resulted in lowered cytokines, molecules that cause inflammation, as well as a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.

6. Massage can relieve osteoarthritis pain. Researchers at Duke University School of Medicine found that a 60-minute massage once a week resulted in significant lowering of pain scores, and increase in range of motion, in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Another study at the Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine looked at patients with arthritis of the hand and wrist.  Just fifteen minutes of moderate-pressure massage daily resulted in reduced pain and anxiety, and increased grip strength.

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Types of massage

Again, while by no means comprehensive, here are some of the major types of massage and their primary benefits.

Swedish massage:  uses five basic strokes to stimulate circulation. Swedish massage is used for pain management, stress relief, and to achieve greater flexibility. It is also known to boost the immune system.

Deep tissue massage: affects the sub-layers beneath the muscles. Deep tissue massage is good for chronic muscle pain, and to reduce inflammation in arthritis and other conditions.

Thai massage: Thai massage is a 2500-year-old practice that is performed on a firm mat on the floor, rather than on a table. It uses kneading and positioning to stimulate tissue and organs based on energy patterns in the body.

Soft tissue massage: a slow, firm massage that is used to treat back pain and to break up scar tissue. It is also used in arthritis treatment.

Acupressure: an ancient Eastern healing art that uses the fingers to press key points on the body, releasing energy channels, known as Qi, to increase blood flow and relieve tension.

Shiatsu: Similar to acupressure, this ancient Japanese massage technique concentrates on unblocking energy. Shiatsu is known to help with constipation, migraines, and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.