A quick quiz: What do Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), chronic insomnia, mild seasonal depression, and diabetes all have in common?
They are all ailments with symptoms that can be treated or lessened by the correct applications of massage therapy!
Once considered to be an “alternative” medicine practice, working much like a placebo drug, massage therapy is continuing to acquire legitimacy. It is now regarded as a solution to a vast array of medical problems and symptoms. This has resulted in an increased demand for trained therapists. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that jobs in this field will increase faster than average among all occupations through the year 2016. Some of these new jobs will be in medical clinics, health spas, and nursing homes. Other professionals will begin their own practices, and will be able to look forward to setting their own hours.
Massage has enjoyed a long history as a treatment for ills. For example, ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations used this technique to treat ailments, and it was popular among ancient Greeks and Romans, as well. This form of therapy did not become popular in the United States until the 19th century, however — and even then, was regarded as charlatan medicine in some circles. After that point, new medical advancements and better understandings of the mind-body connection allowed this practice to gain in legitimacy, until it was recognized as a valid treatment for a number of conditions.
Several uses of massage therapy
Because massage works to manipulate muscle groups and ease tensions, aches, and pains, it can work as a treatment for anxiety and general irritability. Anxiety is often accompanied by the release of cortisol in the body, causing sufferers to feel physically out-of-sorts. This can lead to irritability – and the process works the other way, with irritability begetting anxiety. By relieving feelings of tension and stress, massage therapy helps patients to feel better all over. As stress levels decline, so, too do cortisol levels, allowing patients who seek massage therapy to feel better all over.
This therapy can also work to treat mild to moderate depression. Depression has many causes; some are organic and some are environmental. Daily life stressors, as well as major life events, such as job change or a death in the family, can exacerbate depression and its symptoms. Massage therapy helps depression sufferers to relax, so they can better sort out their thoughts and feelings. While this treatment is by no means a cure for depression, it can help patients calm down and regain a sense of control over their feelings, moods, and even lives. The immediate results — lower anxiety levels, and improved sleeping and eating patterns – help patients to feel hopeful again.
Digestive disorders are another reason why patients might seek massage to feel better. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) — which causes abdominal pain and irregular bowel patterns involving constipation and diarrhea — is an ailment comprised of physical and psychosomatic components. While some symptoms can be controlled by diet or by medication administered during an attack, this illness, too, can be exacerbated by stress, anxiety, and tension. Massage enables IBS patients to relax, leading some to see a reduction in painful and inconvenient symptoms.
Conditions common to adult Americans in the 21st century include high blood pressure and adult-onset, or Type 2 diabetes. While these sorts of conditions are not immediately fatal, they can cause serious secondary complications as affected patients age. High blood pressure and diabetic symptoms, both, are affected by stress levels, which massage therapy can Physiotherapy massage effectively reduce. In the diabetic patient with circulatory problems, massage can also help to restore proper blood flow — however, care must be taken not to harm the patient further by using impatient or incorrect massage strokes. The treatment of diabetic circulatory problems is but one example of why patients with chronic medical conditions usually require the approval of a physician before undergoing massage therapy treatments.
Athletes, pregnant women, and the elderly can all also benefit from this therapu. Pregnancy massage is a specialized category of massage, and can be beneficial in reducing some of the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy, such as mood swings, hip pains, and soft-tissue swelling. Care must be taken not to injure the woman or upset her circulation, so this type of massage is best left to a trained professional. Elderly persons often seek massage therapy for arthritis, or aging-related aches and pains. These patients can be frail, and are more likely than younger patients to suffer from other medical conditions and complications, so therapy for this population should only be performed by professionals skilled in elder treatments.
Massage for athletes is similar in that it must be performed to relieve the stress and pain of sprains, contusions, and other injuries — without making present injuries worse. This therapy for athletes can be performed in tandem with treatment by an athletic trainer, orthopedic specialist, sports medicine physician, or physical therapist. It might be recommended as part of a long-term care strategy for athletes suffering from recurring injuries or even performance anxiety. Sometimes, massage therapists interested in working with athletes train concurrently in sports medicine or sports rehabilitation therapy specialties.