Stretching muscles, mobilizing joints, kneading painful points is one of the oldest healing arts. Getting a massage is one way to take care of oneself not only physically but mentally, helping reduce stress triggering pathologies. But what are the health benefits of massage?
Summary of massage benefits:
The origin of this therapeutic practice goes back many thousands of years, down to Old Chinese manuscripts which speak about the use of massages. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also advocated getting a massage to speed up recovery, regenerate the body or relieve pain after gladiator games.
But in the West, despite its benefits, the practice has long remained in oblivion, in particular because of the rise of Christianity, which viewed with a bad eye all the steps involving touch and physical contact.
A great way to release stress
Today, it is back in full force in the wake of alternative medicines, the need to take care of oneself and to curb the stresses of modern life.
Beyond the pleasure and relaxation it provides at the moment, massage has indeed uncontested, short-term and long-term healing properties. Numerous clinical studies have found the relevance of certain techniques to reduce joint stiffness and chronic neuromuscular pain, soothe headaches and digestive disorders, as well as stimulating immune defences and the better flow of blood and lymphatic circulation.
Once freed from the tensions that assail us, our bodies and minds are more able to defend themselves, especially to better withstand stress - which turn out to be the trigger or even the accelerator of eight out of ten existing pathologies.
An anti-inflammatory power
Massages are surprisingly more efficient than previously thought by acting like a trigger for some chain biochemical changes in the body that spread to the very heart of cells, even at the level of their DNA structures.
A Canadian study by neurologists recruited eleven young athletes to ride a stationary bike for seventy minutes at full speed. After this intense effort, each of them received a massage on one leg. By analyzing muscle samples taken from inside their thighs just before exercise, ten minutes after the massage and two and a half hours later.
The researchers found that the massage had triggered effects comparable to analgesic drug treatments. Even though, biopsies on both legs presented the same microlesions caused by extreme sport, those from the massaged muscles presented far fewer inflammatory molecules than the others.
How is that possible?
Pressure from the massage and different kneading techniques are detected by tiny sensors embedded in the cells’ membranes. These immediately transmit information inside their cells in the form of molecular signals (from kinase proteins to the modified structure), and then the cellular machinery starts up and causes cascading events that lead to the activation of nine usually silent genes, some of which neutralize the inflammatory process.
This is why the immediate pain and aches of the next day are reduced. But that's not all. In the longer term, other genes involved encourage the creation of new mitochondria, the small organelles responsible for the production of energy within cells. The increase in their number may take several weeks.
Next day pain and aches are reduced, but what’s more, with time and continued massage therapies, the body and treated areas will be more toned and better armed in the face of aggression, further enhancing recovery and wellbeing.
Massage techniques, both strong and relaxing styles such as those performed during real Traditional Thai Massages or Swedish massage, also have a beneficial effect on the immune and hormonal system. Specific deep touch receptors located in the derm, the layer of skin located just below the epidermis, are stimulated. They then send nerve impulses to the spinal cord, which carries them to the brain.
In response, it begins to produce large amounts of dopamine, serotonin and endorphin, the brain hormones of relief and pleasure that diffuse immediately throughout the body through the bloodstream.
A U.S. study conducted in September 2010 at a medical centre in Los Angeles clearly showed that this also resulted in a significant decrease in the secretion of cortisol, the stress hormone. Two control groups (26 people each) were given two very different massage sessions:
Group A, 45mins real Swedish massage.
Group B, 45mins light-touches, no pressure.
Analysis of blood samples taken from all participants before and after the session clearly showed the difference.
In people who had been truly massaged, there was a marked increase in the concentration of lymphocytes (white blood cells of the immune system) and a significant decrease in vasopressin, a hormone that regulates blood pressure and the release of cortisol by the adrenal glands. In others, on the other hand, only an increase in oxytocin (satisfaction hormone) is detectable.
The anxiolytic effect of massages is therefore not a placebo effect.
Who should I get my massages with?
But for a massage to bring real health benefits, it must be properly performed.
While massage therapist wanna-be (in aesthetic shops, waxing, nail bars, etc) will tell you that it is not the diploma that makes the therapists’ aptitude, a perfect knowledge of gestures and anatomy is essential for the result to be up to the task.
Some of these places have only received a few days of apprenticeship, which is clearly not enough. At Nam Tip Thai Massage our therapists are all certified by the Royal Thai Medicine school and have been properly trained and practice with full knowledge of the facts.
Beware of poorly performed massages which can do more harm than good, always request to see their certificate and ensure you get a real Thai Massage.
Watch out for massaging machines
Also beware of machines, which are increasingly offered to treat cellulite, reduce scarring or speed up athletes' recovery. Even if some are cleverly designed, nothing beats an expert hand that adapts to the body and the specific needs of each one. An ill-fitting palper-rolling machine can break the skin fibers and weaken the vessels.
Its use is conceivable only in addition to manual treatment, and only after a diagnosis made by a doctor or physiotherapist. When it comes to massage, only "tailor-made" guarantees quality and efficiency.
Choose expert hands
During the first sessions, the therapist will always ask you about your physical condition and your expectations. If they do not, run away!
For the touch to be pleasant, their hands must be warm and supple. And whatever technique is used, it should always start with broad, low-pressed movements to establish progressive contact with your body.
You need to feel that they are fully at what they are doing and not that they are making routine gestures.
Trust your own feelings. A therapist may suit your friends but not you!
A good massage should put you in a secondary state. If you have a fragile neck, report it to the practitioner and make sure the table has a hole to keep your head straight.
Things to consider before having a massage
Wrongly executed, a massage can generate catastrophic effects. If you have allergies, find out about the composition of the oil used (almond, sesame, camphor...), especially if it contains essential oils (lavender,lemon...).
In case of open wound or recent burn, any massage is not recommended. Also be vigilant if you have cancer, including breast cancer, so as not to induce the spread of metastases.
And, of course, no kneading of the belly when you're pregnant. Our therapists are specially trained to give pre-natal massages and know how to deal with expecting moms in order to relief pain and back aches generated from pregnancy. Having a massage while pregnant can work wonders in your body and mental health.
Here at Namtip we have very skilled masseuses that can help you with your body relaxation and pain release needs. Please do not hesitate to call us if you have any doubts about our massage therapies, and we will gladly advise you on which services are best for your situation.