Massage—Ancient Therapy, Miracle Modality, or Both?

By Kathryn R. Burke

[February 2020 | San Juan Silver Stage | By Kathryn R. Burke]

The answer is all of the above. Massage is an ancient therapy and modern effective tool for facilitating and maintaining good health for anyone of any age in any health condition. The result of a one-hour massage on your body is the equivalent of 6-8 hours sleep. And, you feel great afterward!

Massage therapy is the manipulation of soft tissue through touch, primarily the hands, with the purpose of aiding the body to heal itself by increasing and improving physical and emotional balance and well- being. Chinese texts over 4,000 years old mention it. Western medicine has advocated it since the time of Hippocrates, “The Father of Medicine.”  Modern massage began in Sweden in the 1800s and came to this country after the Civil War. In the 1960s, massage became a popular modality for alternative medicine. And now, over half a century later, “medical massage” is even covered by some health insurance plans.

Probably the most recognized benefit of massage is stress relief. Living in today’s high-speed, complicated world, we literally tie ourselves in knots over work, relationships, family drama, sports activities, chronic pain, and just the complexities of everyday living. “Stress is the number one killer in America,” said massage therapist, Sharon Gaza. Left untreated, stress causes heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses. Regular massage can help reduce edema, vertigo, and insomnia, and help heal after injury or illness.”  Massage therapy can also increase range of motion and relieve arthritic pain. Both are common results of aging that cause increasing discomfort if left untreated. Isn’t it nice to know there is a better alternative than prescriptive drugs for these pesky ailments? Aging also, often, means lack of touch, as family moves on, and people live alone. And pre-natal (or pregnancy) massage, helps both mother and unborn baby. Touch therapy is a basic need from pre-birth till end of life.

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Interestingly, ‘touch’ is also a two-way treatment, between recipient and practitioner. “The first  15 minutes  of therapeutic touch body releases same amount of dopamine and serotonin for the giver as well as receiver,” said Mandy Simpson, owner of Colorado Kur at the Ouray Pool and Fitness Center. “It helps improve emotional stability, lowers blood pressure, increases recovery time after athletic events or gym time, and increases sense of body image and awareness. You feel better after somebody works on you.”

A major reason behind its health benefits, is how massage works to relieve stress. “When you receive a treatment,” said Ginger Decker, massage therapist (who also teaches the modality) , “you are in a totally focused, relaxed state. The only thing you have to do is relax.” Thoughts of all those things you should, would, must “do” past, present and future, just drift away as your mind and body let go. “We’re all so busy!,” she said, “multi-tasking all the time.” This causes stress that’s reflected in your body (hunched, cramped, posture, for example, or muscle strain from repetitive work motions), your mind (forgotten appointments and details, worry over work, money, family), and your emotions (anger, sadness, distress, fear, and feelings of hopelessness). No wonder we suffer from migraines, sore muscles, back pain, and ‘sick days’ off work. “Massage is not just relaxing, it’s calming and rejuvenating,” Decker said. While relieving stress and pain, it also improves mood and increases energy. What’s not to like about it!

The author has been a proponent of massage therapy all her life and found it an invaluable tool for all aspects of total life management. Massage is the undisputed basis for optimal balance of body, mind, and spirit.