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I originally thought that massage therapy would be a gentle, soothing massage that would lessen the ever present tightness in my shoulders and lower back. Boy was I wrong.
I made an appointment at the insistence of my boss because the neck pain I had experienced since adolescence was becoming more intense from the way I sat at my computer.
I was led into a pastel room with soft lighting and asked to strip to my underwear and lay face down on the table. My head went into a donut shaped holder and there was a place to rest my arms. The massage therapist came in and asked me some questions about the location of my pain and then went to work.
It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt.
Deep tissue massage is used for breaking up the tightness in the muscle tissue and retraining the muscles. Although the first few sessions seemed to hurt more than they helped, I stuck with it, coming three times a week for a month. By the end of the second month I had begun to look forward to each session and noticed that I wasn’t clenching my jaw as much. I also noticed that my lower back didn’t hurt as much at the end of the day.
The therapist had given me several back stretching exercises to do at night and the results were amazing. I now refer all of my friends with muscle pain for massage therapy.
Massage works the soft tissue-muscles, ligaments and tendons-to stimulate circulation and improve muscle tone. It is a system of kneading and pressing on specific muscle bundles just underneath the skin, but a good massage therapist can reach deeper muscles. Massage is and ancient and simple form of therapy.
Another benefit is improved breathing and circulation. Because the lymphatic system runs parallel to the circulatory system, there is improved elimination of waste throughout the body, and in order to experience the full benefits the client is taught how to breathe deeply and slowly. While the few initial visits were quite uncomfortable, the full result was entirely relaxing.
An occasional soft massage is so relaxing that many people fall asleep during the treatment.
However, if you have pain like mine a course of several treatments will result in the full benefit, such as along with increased circulation and improved breathing, a relaxed muscle is a good way to prevent sprains and torn ligaments, especially if you are an athlete. ( I am far from being an athlete, but am just as prone to injury from excess tension and structural weakness.)
For example, when the structure in my lower back is compromised due to inactivity, I am much more likely to strain my back when I lift heavy objects, even though I am aware of how to properly lift a box-with your knees, not with your back- but because my legs and lower back are weak, massage can greatly improve the position of the muscles and makes them more pliable, thus resulting in less chance of sprain or strain.
Massage is also used to relieve fatigue, which can be caused from the muscles in the body being so tight that you use extra energy to function. Because massage relaxes the muscles, the entire body doesn’t have to work so hard and what was once fatigue can now be energy directed elsewhere.
One last note on the benefits of massage-the use of massage oils help lessen the friction of massage on dry skin, and are often used as an aromatherapy along with the massage process. A good, clean essential oil such as rosemary can leave the client feeling relaxed and calm, so don’t hesitate to ask your therapist to use scented oil.