There are a number of different techniques that fall under the massage therapy category. Everything from Reiki to Shiatsu and Swedish to sports massage is considered a form of massage. The main feature that all techniques share, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), is their ability to provide relaxation and stress relief.
Fear, anticipation and worry all contribute to the physical reactions the body experiences when hit with psychologically charged feelings. The fight-or-flight response kicks in, adrenalin rushes and blood pressure rises to prepare for action. Researchers at NCCAM report that massage therapy can reverse those psychological conditions by first helping to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Multiple massage sessions can effectively remove the original fears, also referred to as trait anxiety, to combat the initial responses.
The manual manipulations of the body cause serotonin and endorphins to be released into the bloodstream, elevating moods. Massage also can stimulate pain blockers and reduce the feelings associated with chronic pain. Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center report that massage can relieve feelings of depression in people with chronic illnesses such as cancer and fibromyalgia.
Most people find a massage very relaxing. The environment prepared by the massage therapist is typically soothing and calm, often filled with soft music and the healing fragrance of various aromatherapy scents from candles or diffusers. The client lies down on a table and is cared for by a trained professional—touched by another human being with soothing hands. Tight muscles are rubbed, relaxed and loosened. If you can't afford to be pampered in a spa or massage therapist's office those same relaxing benefits may be achieved through self-massage techniques and massage sessions with a partner.
While massage can be very relaxing, the brisk movement of certain massage strokes can energize the client and increase concentration and mental acuity. Office managers have taken up the cry for massage in the workplace to keep workers energized and alert. While athletes often use massage to reduce anxiety and soothe sore muscles, doctors at the Sports Injury Clinic report that specific pre-event sports massage can pump athletes up by leaving them with a positive self-image and attitude needed to win competitions.