Benefits of Bodywork
Healers throughout time and throughout the world have instinctively and independently developed a wide range of therapeutic techniques using touch.Touching is a natural human reaction to pain and stress, and for conveying compassion and support. Think of the last time you bumped your head or had a sore calf. What did you do? Rubbed it, right? The same was true of our earliest ancestors.
Many of these ancient techniques are still in use today, and with good reason. We now have scientific proof of the benefits of bodywork – benefits ranging from treating injuries and chronic diseases to dissolving the growing tensions of our modern lifestyles. Receiving bodywork does more than just relax your body and mind – there are specific physiological and psychological changes which occur, even more so when massage is utilized as a preventative, frequent therapy and not simply mere luxury. Massage not only feels good, but it can cure what ails you.
Some experts estimate that 80 percent to 90 percent of disease is stress-related. Bodywork is a perfect preventative measure in reducing stress-related illness and disease. Besides increasing relaxation and decreasing anxiety, massage lowers your blood pressure, increases circulation, improves recovery from injury, helps you to sleep better and can increase your concentration. It reduces fatigue and gives you more energy.
Dr. Maria Hernandez-Reif, from the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami, is known for her massage research, along with colleague Tiffany Field. Together, they and other researchers have done outstanding work proving the value of massage. While their studies have shown we can benefit from massage even in small doses (15 minutes of chair massage or a half-hour table session), Hernandez-Reif says they know from their research that receiving bodywork 2-3 times a week is highly beneficial. And if we lived in a fantasy world, Hernandez-Reif has the answer. “I feel a daily massage is optimal.”
In an age of technical and, at times, impersonal medicine, massage offers a drug-free, non-invasive and holistic approach based on the body’s natural ability to heal itself. So what exactly are the benefits to receiving regular massage and/or bodywork treatments?
- Increases circulation, allowing the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.
- Stimulates the flow of lymph, the body’s natural defense system, against toxic invaders. For example, in breast cancer patients, massage has been shown to increase the cells that fight cancer.
- Increased circulation of blood and lymph systems improves the condition of the body’s largest organ – the skin.
- Relaxes and softens injured and overused muscles.
- Reduces spasms and cramping.
- Increases joint flexibility.
- Reduces recovery time, helps prepare for strenuous workouts and eliminates subsequent pains of the athlete at any level.
- Releases endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller – and is being used in chronic illness, injury and recovery from surgery to control and relieve pain.
- Reduces post-surgery adhesions and edema and can be used to reduce and realign scar tissue after healing has occurred.
- Improves range-of-motion and decreases discomfort for patients with low back pain.
- Relieves pain for migraine sufferers and decreases the need for medication.
- Provides exercise and stretching for atrophied muscles and reduces shortening of the muscles for those with restricted range of motion.
- Assists with shorter labor for expectant mothers, as well as less need for medication, less depression and anxiety, and shorter hospital stays.