The potential benefits and financial value of massage therapy is, unfortunately, highly under-studied. The therapy of touch alone is as healing to the emotions and mind as it is to the body.
Traditional medical practices have focused on the body alone. Massage therapy focuses on mind, body and emotions. The Touch Research Institute in Florida, which is dedicated to studying the effects of touch therapy, has conducted more than 100 studies on the positive effects of massage therapy on many functions and medical conditions among many age groups. Significant research findings include:
- Enhanced growth (in pre-term infants)
- Diminished pain (fibromyalgia)
- Decreased autoimmune problems (increased pulmonary function in asthma and decreased glucose levels in diabetes)
- Enhanced immune function (increased natural killer cells in HIV and cancer)
- Enhanced alertness and performance (EEG pattern of alertness and better performance on math computations).
Many of these effects appear to be mediated by decreased stress hormones. And this is a very small sample of what has been studied with massage therapy.
In nearly all studies that have been conducted by the Touch Research Institute, participants have reported lower stress, anxiety, and depression, and improved sleep patterns. And the Touch Research Institute isn’t the only facility researching the benefits of massage therapy.
Many areas of health care are starting to realize the benefits of massage therapy and have incorporated it into regular health care:
- Athletes are using massage therapy more to help enhance performance, prevent injury and speed recovery time.
- Prenatal massage aids in keeping mom relaxed and calm which, in turn, better supports a developing fetus.
- Geriatric massage aids in supporting our elderly population through many health concerns that come with aging, as well as receiving the benefits of touch in and of itself.
- Special needs populations, including those who are wheelchair bound, can experience many muscular pains — and there are those who can’t tell you they are experiencing pain. Massage therapy helps to elevate their moods, decrease their pain, and improve their response to others.
- Oncology massage helps to temporarily relieve the symptoms of chemotherapy treatment. Symptoms can include nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression, just to name a few.
- Accident victims who experience limited range of motion and pain from conditions, such as whiplash, thoracic outlet syndrome, and a whole host of other conditions, experience increased range of motion, decreased pain, and decreased anxiety and depression.
Insurance companies are now covering the cost of massage therapy, with certain limitations, for accident victims, not only because of the benefits of massage therapy, but because it often is less expensive than pharmaceutical counterparts.
The financial value of massage is also highly underestimated. I’ll use an example from my own experience. I was experiencing severe headaches, so I went to the doctor. The doctor prescribed me muscle relaxants. The total cost of that visit, at the time, was $135 for the office visit and another $50 for my prescription. I could’ve received two one-hour massage treatments for $120, saved myself $65, experienced reduced stress and anxiety (which were probably causing my muscle tension in the first place), and experienced this without the side effects of taking pharmaceuticals.
As a Holistic Health Practitioner and Massage Therapist, I encourage people to try holistic modalities first, including massage therapy, before resorting to more costly modalities. I’m not suggesting that massage therapy is a replacement for health care; I’m suggesting it is a great complement to incorporate into one’s health care regimen.