If you think getting a massage is strictly a luxury, it’s time to think again. Massage therapy has many mental, physical and emotional benefits, especially for people in recovery. It’s a valuable tool that can help relieve stress, boost mood, promote mindfulness and much, much more. It can be an integral part of a healthy self-care plan.
Massage can be incorporated into your life on a regular basis—weekly, biweekly or monthly—or during times of need when you are craving relief and release. The popularity of massage therapy has grown over the years, which means you don’t have to go to a fancy destination spa to get one. Doctor’s offices, medical clinics, day spas, and national massage chains all make getting a massage simple, and often affordable. Here’s what you should know about massage therapy, and how you can get the most out of it.
The Basics of Massage Therapy
As you probably know, massage involves different techniques of rubbing, stroking or pressing on the body to release tension in the muscles. There are different types of massage you should also know about, to make sure you are getting the right massage for your particular needs. One of the most common is Swedish massage, which incorporates a variety of techniques—stroking, rubbing, tapping and kneading different parts of the body—to achieve the desired results. Swedish massage can also be enhanced with oils and lotions to reap the benefits of aromatherapy.
If you have serious tension in your body or areas that have been under particular stress from prior injuries, then a deep-tissue massage may be more appropriate for you. This can be considered a more intense version of Swedish massage, as the therapist strokes the body with more pressure to get all the way into the muscles for relief. Sports massage offers similar treatment for athletes and their specific physical needs.
In a way, trigger point massage is a combination of Swedish and deep-tissue. This type of massage therapy involves gentle overall strokes, with more forceful pressure applied to the specific areas where the body needs extra attention. Another type of massage that focuses on specific points on the body is reflexology, which usually is performed on the hands or feet. Reflexology can be done in conjunction with other types of massage, or on its own.
Finally, there are two types of massage therapy rooted in Asian traditions. Shiatsu is based on Japanese methods of applying acupressure-type touch in rhythmic techniques to unblock the flow of energy throughout the body. Thai massage is one of the more robust forms of massage therapy; instead of laying still on a massage table, your body will be stretched and contorted to boost energy.
Whatever type of massage therapy you decide to get, you’ll want to ask if the therapist has any licensing or certification, and see what training she has. Depending on the place where you go for massage therapy and what you are being treated for, it may be worth it to check with your medical insurer to see if your sessions will be covered. At your first appointment, you should be asked about your medical history and any areas of concern on your body. (If you have medical conditions such as osteoporosis or bleeding disorders, talk with your physician before starting a course of massage therapy.) You can get a massage clothed, in your underwear or naked, according to the type of massage and your comfort level. You should always feel that you can tell the therapist to go lighter or heavier on the pressure during the massage, and always let her know if the massage is causing any pain.
The Benefits of Massage Therapy
One of the most obvious benefits of massage therapy, and one reason why so many people enjoy it is the incredible feeling of relaxation that washes over you after a massage. As the body releases the tension it’s been holding onto, you can feel the stress evaporate, and that feeling of rejuvenation and refreshment can help you face any stress that comes your way. For people in recovery, stress management is an important tool that prevents life challenges from taking a toll and leaving people susceptible to relapsing if they turn back to their old ways of using substances as a coping mechanism.
If you relied on addiction to substances to deal with physical pain, massage therapy may hold some benefits for you as well. Many people find regular massages to be a wonderful way to alleviate physical pain as part of an overall pain management plan that is overseen by a physician. Massage therapy may hold benefits for chronic pain conditions including headaches, fibromyalgia and joint or tissue issues. Freedom from pain can give you a better, more positive outlook on life.
Some people also have found massage therapy relieves conditions such as digestive issues, fatigue, and poor circulation. With the relaxation of muscle tension, some people experience greater flexibility and a recharged immune system.
Studies have also found that massage therapy can play a part in easing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Because mental health issues often co-occur with substance use disorders, it’s important to treat those symptoms for a successful recovery, and massage therapy can play a role in that.
Also, massage therapy can be an ideal way to improve sleep problems. If stress keeps you up at night, that lack of sleep can make your concentration fuzzy, sadden your mood and leave you feeling lackluster and unmotivated—the kinds of things that could lower your resolve and put you at risk of relapse. The overall sense of calm and relaxation you feel after a massage may lead to a better night’s sleep—and with a sound night of sleep, you will wake up energized and less likely to be stressed out and frazzled during the day. Finally, the feeling of touch can be very soothing for many people, and a massage is like a comforting balm that speaks to the soul.
Massage therapy can be a wonderful part of your recovery. If you are looking for tools to live a full, successful life after addiction treatment, contact Casa Palmera. Our trained and compassionate staff can work with you on your issues and give you a strong foundation that will help you thrive in recovery.