Ideas on Wellness: Why Massage Therapy
Updated: Aug 8
Licensed Massage Therapy is an up and coming field in the health industry. Put short, it is the manipulation of soft tissue to improve muscle tone and circulation, but that hardly explains the technique and art form performed by the skilled therapist that dedicate themselves to healing. Massage therapists continue to gain recognition from their peers in the healthcare field as they play a vital role in the aid of musculoskeletal dysfunctions and the stress relief. As desire for more natural healing alternatives increases along with the stresses of everyday life in American culture, the profession is slowly being pushed more and more into the spotlight as a potentially essential part of a well-rounded health and wellness program.
So why is Massage Therapy “potentially essential?” It needs to be noted that every person is unique and requires different types of healthcare to keep them feeling pain free and healthy. The variances between what make individual people feel their best can differ. No single healthcare provider can take full responsibility for a person’s overall wellbeing with all of the different elements that go into a healthy human being (diet, exercise, recovery, hygiene, sleep, happiness, etc).
There are all types of healthcare providers to choose from, but what your health really comes down to is feeling physically and mentally (even spiritually) whole. You want to be able to wake up every day and be able to perform the tasks you need to perform. For some, a well-rounded health and wellness program may be a monthly chiropractic adjustment paired with the pain killers their doctor prescribes for chronic headache (a fairly Western approach). Others may go to the gym a couple times a week paired with acupuncture every other week, or may feel an hour massage every two weeks keeps them in a place where they feel healthy. This is why Massage Therapy is potentially essential; your health program is all your own to create and there is no right or wrong answer to what makes you feel your best. However, exploring beyond just a biannual visit to a conventional doctor for a routine physical is recommended. Everyone should have a personal health and wellness journey that allows them to find optimal health and longevity by the means that suit them best.
The number of approaches to attaining “ideal health” are nearly limitless because of all the different systems that have been developed over the time of human existence across the planet, but among the most well-known of healing techniques are Traditional Chinese Medicine and current science of Western Medicine. Two philosophies that have proven to have profound effects on human health in entirely different ways. The example of Eastern vs Western medicine is the perfect example of variances in healthcare depending on preference. Western doctor works on the body as a mechanic would by replacing structural components as they break down, intervening with life threatening crises, and eliminating pathologic occurrences. We are all familiar with Western doctors because that is what we have grown up with in the United States. Their approach is often ingrained in us as the only way of healing because it’s all our culture really knew until more recent years as Eastern practices began to find their way to the other side of the world. Traditional Chinese Medicine approach is more like a gardener who adjusts to create balance, enhances self-healing, and helps chronic long term problems. There is a strong emphasis on healthy day to day living. The Nei Jing, a medical classic written in the second century B.C., states, “Maintaining order rather than correcting disorder is the ultimate principle of wisdom. To cure disease after it has appeared is like digging a well when one already feels thirsty.” Protecting human life by preserving the conditions within which it thrives is the purpose of Chinese medicine. TCM practitioners primarily use natural herbal treatments paired with acupuncture and/or acupressure in order to manipulate “Chi”, which is human life force, in and out of areas with surpluses and deficits of the energy to bring balance. Chi may be unseen, but from personal experience I can vouch it is powerful and relevant to our health and happiness. To many Westerners the idea of basing a style of medicine outside of a tangible and measurable phenomena seems pointless, but in its defense Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practiced for over two thousand years. It seems unlikely it would be practiced up to this day without its benefits making an impact on those who receive. The debate as to whether Eastern or Western medicine is superior is subjective and that is why the “Wellness Journey” is important, find what works for you. From my experience I would chose Western medicine if I was having a heart attack or stroke, and Eastern medicine if I wanted to fix an on-going chronic problem like arthritis or sleeplessness.
So where does Licensed Massage Therapy fall in the grand scheme of a well-rounded Healthcare Programs as well as in the debate of Eastern vs Western healing? Well, I’d say smack dab in the middle of it all, but in the best way possible. Massage Therapists are the go to healthcare provider for anything related to muscle dysfunction and therapeutic relaxation (note that Massage Therapists do not treat or diagnose illness and disease or prescribe any form of medication). The vast majority of us will have some form of muscle tone dysfunction and many of us may not even realize until a therapist beings to work on effected areas. When it comes to noninvasive procedures and dynamic healing massages cannot be trumped. Massage is dynamic because beyond just the physical effect of manipulating soft tissue to alleviate or eliminate pain and dysfunction, it also helps balance internal neurotransmitters. Examples of these neurotransmitters are cortisol, dopamine, and serotonin that regulate mood and the feeling of mental well-being. Some practitioners also practice modalities like Reiki which is the channeling of universal life energy offering energetic healing. With massage being so universal it makes sense that it also breaks the barrier of East vs West by incorporating skill sets from both sides of the planet. From a Western perspective there are accepted modalities like Clinical/Medical Massage that can be implemented before or after surgeries to increase a patients healing rates. From the Eastern perspective modalities like gua sha, acupressure, and cupping can be incorporated into massage practices as well. The many modalities of massage make it a great place to start and supplement your health and wellness journey because the professions versatility means more ways of being able to be healed.
"Massage has the ability to incorporate both Eastern and Western approaches, quite balanced"
Below is my personal health and wellness program that can be used for reference if desired. It is a model I keep to as close as I can, but in the event I miss one of my gym days or a serving of vegetables it’s not the end of the world. Perseverance is the most crucial element. Remember to always consult your primary physician before making changes to lifestyle.
Day To Day
Try to increase heart rate for at least 20 minutes, 3 times per week through cardio.
Lift weights 3 times per week to focus on muscle groups that need strengthening to have ideal posture or to meet the function of work required. (Example: strengthening rotator cuff muscles if your job involves a lot of repetitive shoulder motion).
Stretch every day in the morning or before bed if possible, it’s a great way to relax as well as prevent injury.
Get in at least one serving of dark greens every day, two if it’s an option.
Avoid highly processed meats and other processed foods.
Meditate/Pray/Sit in Silence for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Helps clear mind and focus intention.
Acupuncture every 2 weeks (may supplement more if needed)
Massage Therapy every 2 weeks to a month depending on levels of physical stressors.
Visit doctor and get routine checkup and screenings.