Did you know that part of a muscle’s anatomy is called the belly? In a muscle, the belly is the biggest part of the muscle where the majority of muscle fibers come together to either contract in flexion or extension and do the work of holding our bones together, standing, sitting, bending, running, walking, picking things up, hugging people, waving hello, lifting a fork and more.
We feed and nourish our muscles with the foods we eat, the water we drink, and the exercise we do. Our muscles work hard for us but often we do not use them in a balanced way, either overusing them or under-using them. Nourishment is essential to a healthy body and long life, and it comes in more forms than just through food. Massage is another way that we can nourish our bodies, minds and, specifically, our muscles.
PRI Educational Development Company’s Swedish Massage Workbook defines massage as “the rubbing and kneading of muscles and joints of the body with the hands, especially to relieve tension or pain.” Non-medicated pain relief is one of the most important benefits of massage that happens by a process of “wringing” the toxins from the muscles while increasing the blood flow that transports essential nutrients to the muscle.
Peggy York, Campus Director of Spa Tech Institute, a school that offers Massage Therapy as one of its programs, explains other benefits of massage to the client and says, “Massage increases our happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin and lowers our stress hormones like cortisol, leaving us in a place of peace and presence that most people cannot attain unless they are doing something that they are completely in love with and that gives them great joy.”
Jay Phelps has been receiving various types of massage for the past 20 of his 22 years in long term recovery and claims, “I find it’s a huge asset and companion to my sobriety and if I had not engaged in massage, the quality of my recovery would not be nearly as full and the joy factor in my life would be less.” He finds the whole experience is a spiritual one and adamantly states, “Massage has been vital for handling life transitions…….and the benefits not only happen at the table but carry into the week and often back to the table for a future session.” Because of the vulnerability that occurs during a massage, Jay believes “although not every therapist is a good fit for everyone, the relationship that you build with your therapist opens a level of trust. The more you can trust the therapist the more that you can move blocked energy and tension.”
As a practitioner, Peggy shares, “I need to go into a place of raising my vibration in order to be aligned before a session. Like supervision in mental health therapies, you have to work your own issues out in order to work on a client and provide an excellent service, being fully present to better read the body’s feedback. The benefits of giving a massage are just as deep and healing as getting a massage due to the physical and energetic connections that are made during a session.” The importance of receiving sessions as a practitioner is highlighted at the school she directs due to the physical demand that’s required working in this field.
Jay has watched our culture catching up to the evident medical benefits of massage. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states, “Employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand will likely increase as more healthcare providers understand the benefits of massage and these services become part of treatment plans.”
In a society where the opioid epidemic has become headline news, in part due to over prescribing of pain medication, Pharmacy Times Magazine says that Maine and 14 other states have passed a law beginning in 2016 that limits the prescribing of opioid pain medication. As a result, massage has become a vital part of many treatment plans as a way to combat pain.
People in early recovery can also benefit from the benefits of massage during what is normally a difficult time of detoxification from drugs or alcohol.
It appears that, like many other holistic therapies, massage is a viable approach to nourishing the whole body and this practice can strengthen our connection to ourselves.