What Your Muscles Sorely 'Knead'

What Your Muscles Sorely 'Knead'

Eston Dunn Special For eFitness

Man has been rubbing sore muscles since the day he dragged his first Woolly Mammoth home for supper. But medical science has yet to figure out why massage feels so good. There’s not a lot of research but some headway has been made into the way massage works a man’s body.

For one thing, massage seems to restrict the body’s release of cortisol, a hormone that plays a major role in triggering stress reactions. The less cortisol you produce, the less stress you may feel. Massage also has been shown to improve the deep, resting phase of sleep. And it may boost your production of serotonin, a hormone linked to positive mood changes and improved immunity.

Studies have shown that 15 minutes of daily massage appears to lessen anxiety, make people more alert and increase the speed with which they complete problems. These results indicate that the key to an effective workforce could be regular massage.

Massage therapy has also been shown to have positive effects on everything from depression and high blood pressure to helping improve the immune function of males who’ve tested positive for HIV (the virus associated with AIDS). Many insurance companies now cover massage if the doctor orders it. And some massage therapists note that some of their best, most loyal clients are doctors.

Typical sessions last about 50 minutes and it's recommended that participants go as often as they like or can afford. Be aware that there are massage "parlours," and then there are places to get a legitimate massage. Find a reputable, qualified massage therapist.

There are different strokes for different folks. Swedish massage - with its kneading, rubbing and use of oils - is the method most people think of! But there’s also shiatsu (finger pressure), in which a therapist works pressure points along nerve pathways to relieve pain and stress.

There’s specialised sports massage, which focuses on soothing overworked muscles and joints. And then there’s a grab bag of techniques and sub-techniques like Rolfing, Fedenkrais, Trager, Alexander, Aston-Patterning and Bindegeswebmassage, which promote everything from body lengthening to spine realignments to posture improvements. Talk to your therapist first. You want to find someone whose specialty matches your needs.

Massage isn’t for everyone. People with phlebitis or other circulatory ailments, some forms of cancer or heart disease, infections or fevers should not use massage therapy. In most cases, avoid massage for about three days after suffering a fracture or serious sprain. If you have any doubts, ask your doctor. Massage is about relaxation. And let’s face it, some guys just aren’t comfortable taking off their clothes for a Swedish massage. Only go as far as what feels right. Maybe you’ll have to work your way up to it. You should enjoy it!

Therapists should be conscious of your feelings. They should cover parts of the body they’re not working on. They should respect your wishes. If they don’t, find another massage therapist. If there’s tension or pressure in a relationship, go somewhere else. The whole reason for partaking in massage is to relieve stress, not cause it.

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