You’re asked to disrobe to your level of comfort. You have a towel placed over you for modesty and the fact that the masseuse doesn’t really want to look at a fully naked body. There’s soft music playing in the background. Maybe there are scented candles burning. The lights are low and your muscles begin to get worked.
Dr. Mark H. Rapapport, who is the Chief of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, published a study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine which found that a single deep tissue massage can significantly lower arginine vasopressin levels in the body.
Commonly identified as AVP, this hormone constructs blood vessels, raises blood pressure levels, and tells the kidneys to stop trying to make you go to the bathroom.
By lowering AVP, you can lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and even promote lower levels of the stress hormone called cortisol. It is also possible to improve lymphocyte numbers, which are critical immune system fighters that can even knock out cancer when in high enough numbers.
These and the other key benefits of receiving a massage are known to occur when visiting a masseuse on a regular basis. Could it be possible to experience the scientific benefits of a massage when using equipment that is designed to let a person give themselves a massage at home?
How Does a Massage Help to Promote Healing?
In the past, a massage was believed to help muscles feel better because the squeezing action of the muscles would release lactic acid from them or other waste products. Without the toxins, the muscle could heal.
Today’s massage science looks at the very DNA of a person to see how the kneading action of a muscle can promote personal healing. Instead of squeezing “bad juices” out of a muscle like you’d squeeze juice out of a lemon, the action of a massage turns on genes that are linked to internal inflammation.
At the same time, the action of the massage helps to turn on the genetic sequences that promote muscle healing.
Mark Tarnopolisky, who works as a researcher at McMaster University, discovered that receiving a massage after a strenuous workout increases the levels of PGC-1alpha by up to 30%. This gene is what creates cellular energy. There was also three times less NFkB in the body, which is responsible for inflammation.
How the massage is administered does not matter. It is when the massage is administered that is more important. The best results can be achieved when a massage is given just 10 minutes after completing a workout. Results are still possible up to 3 hours after the affected muscles receive damage from overuse.
In the United States, the average cost of a masseuse is $60 per hour, though it varies by region and can be significantly more or less expensive. The cost of premium massage equipment, by comparison, is about $250. A full-size massage recliner can be about $1,000.
It would take just 4-5 massage sessions with your equipment to have it pay for itself. In 6-12 months, even a full-size recliner with premium features can pay for itself when it replaces the services of a professional masseuse.
That makes the investment choice simple.
Concerns About the Science of Massage
Many of the scientific research studies that have looked at the benefits of massage offer preliminary or conflicting results. There is some common ground, however, that can be found with the thousands of studies that have been completed since 1980.
In general terms, we know that the benefits of massage include relief from back pain. It can also improve the quality of life for individuals with a challenging health diagnosis, such as HIV or AIDS, cancer, or major depression.
The other benefits that can be achieved with massage are somewhat subjective to the individual. The bottom line is this: if a massage makes you feel better, then go get one or invest into tools that will let you create massage therapy sessions at home.
As long as the massage tools are used appropriately, there are few risks involved in the process.
Many of the effects that massage can provide do seem to be short-term in nature, which means repetitive massage is often necessary to maximize the benefits of this procedure.
What to Know About Hiring a Professional Masseuse
If you’re concerned about your skill level in self-administering a massage with a home-based tool or spa product, then hiring a professional masseuse may be a good investment, even if it is more expensive.
Before finalizing an appointment, it is important to realize that 44 states in the US, along with the District of Columbia, require massage therapists to meet specific training standards and have licensing requirements in place. Those standards can vary widely from state-to-state, so be sure to review what is required to become a masseuse before scheduling your appointment.
Before You Begin Giving Yourself a Massage…
- If you have a medical condition for which you are already receiving treatment, talk to your doctor about your desire to have massage therapy. Some conditions can be worsened with regular massage.
- Talk to your health insurance provider before scheduling an appointment. You may qualify for copays or even have the procedure or equipment completely covered. A doctor’s prescription for massage therapy may be necessary to access this benefit.
- Never use massage therapy to postpone conventional medical care.
- Different types of massage equipment provide unique results. Rollers can target one muscle area while the best foot spas target a generalized area. Make sure the equipment you purchase is intended to meet the needs you have.
- Percussion massagers are intended for the neck, shoulders, and back. Avoid using them around the head to prevent an unnecessary injury.
Massage equipment can provide results that are similar to what a professional masseuse offers. Although it can be nice to have someone else give you the massage that you want or need, sometimes it is also nice to know that you can give one to yourself at home as well.