The holidays are just around the corner! If you’re thinking of purchasing massage gift certificates to pamper your loved ones – a particularly nice stress reliever, especially during the manic month of December – you should also know that the medical community recognizes certain massages as a credible treatment for many types of back pain. Massages are specifically known for helping muscle strain in the lower back, upper back, and neck; osteoarthritis of the spine; and fibromyalgia.
There are several theories about how massage works to relieve pain and tension. One theory is that it triggers the release of the pain-relieving substances called endorphins into the brain. Other theories suggest that massage therapy stimulates the nervous system in ways that relieve pain.
According to Spine Health, massage therapy has several potential health benefits for back pain sufferers:
- Increased blood flow and circulation, which brings needed nutrition to muscles and tissues. This aids in recovery of muscle soreness from physical activity or soft tissue injury (such as muscle strain).
- Decreased tension in the muscles. This muscle relaxation can improve sleep and flexibility and reduce pain caused by tight muscles (many runners receive massages post-marathon).
- Increased endorphin levels – the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. This mood enhancer can ease depression and anxiety, which can help reduce pain and speed recovery–particularly important for those suffering from chronic back or neck problems.
Additionally, massages can help control stress associated with tension and headaches, increase immunity, and help mental health and wellness.
Find a massage therapist at the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), the largest non-profit professional association serving massage therapists, massage students, and massage schools. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that if pain increases unexpectedly or persists for a long period of time, I recommend you consult a physician.
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