Because massage activates your body"s parasympathetic nervous system, it counteracts your body"s negative response to stress, relaxing muscle tension and allowing your heart rate, blood pressure, and circulation to return to normal, says Patty DiZenzo, certified massage therapist of Active Center for Health and Wellness, Hackensack, N.J. At the same time, massage can increase awareness of your body and where you hold tension.
Here are five positive things a massage can do for you and your body:
1. Decrease chronic pain: Massage releases endorphins (the body"s natural painkiller) into the brain and nervous system to reduce pain and discomfort without the use of medication. It also activates nerve receptor signals to temporarily block chronic pain signals from reaching the brain. For lower-back pain, try shiatsu, an Asian form of massage using trigger points to ease tension and release endorphins.
2. Strengthen your immune system: Massage increases circulation in your lymphatic system, which plays a major role in warding off infection and healing injuries.
3. Improve nerve function: Massage relaxes contracted muscles, which can press or pinch your nerves, causing tingling, numbness, or pain. For athletes or those who just love a good workout, try a Swedish massage to lessen the muscle pain that comes with exercise.
4. Sleep better: Since massage relaxes tense muscles and calms the nervous system, causing your body"s rhythm to slow down, blood pressure is lowered, your heart rate settles and your breathing becomes deeper and more rhythmic, setting you up for a great night"s sleep. We suggest trying a myofascial massage - forty-five minutes twice a week may help alleviate symptoms of restless leg syndrome, according to the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. Swedish massage can also help prevent insomnia.
5. Improve your skin: With so many factors taking a toll on our skin, including the sun, pollution, poor diet, and just the natural aging process, massage therapy can increase the uptake of vital skin-repairing nutrients and speed the removal of toxins. Improved circulation helps moisturize your skin, improving skin texture, while relieving dryness and itching.
Stressed or not, everyone can improve their health while enjoying a little R&R. And, if you"re new to massage, or want to try something different from the usual Swedish or deep tissue, find out which massage is right for you with Spafinder Wellness 365"s Massage Guide.