Massage therapy, also referred to as bodywork, serves a very important role in maintaining health. To help explain that massage is more than a luxury spa treatment, I decided to give you a personal account of how I have incorporated massage to help me live my life as fully as possible.
Improving musculoskeletal alignment
For my wedding, I wanted to look perfect in my dress and feel like a princess walking down the aisle.
Upon watching my wedding video, I was a bit surprised to see that as I was walking arm in arm with my dad down the aisle, my legs looked awkward. It looked as though one leg belonged to a duck.
I sought the help of a massage therapist who specialized in restoring proper musculoskeletal alignment by releasing trigger points in muscles.
It turned out my pelvis was rotated, causing uneven rotation in each hip socket and uneven leg lengths. The same imbalance even contributed to some neck pain I was having at the time.
Now, when I notice I am walking half like a duck, I run to a body worker I know has the capabilities of releasing the connective tissues in a way to restore my body’s proper alignment.
This style of bodywork is helpful for:
■ Improving sports performance
■ Stubborn back, hip or knee pain
■ Frozen shoulder
■ Neck pain
■ Temporomandibular joint disorders, also known as TMJ
Releasing toxins and improving lymphatic function
Since delivering my twins, I have experienced periodic swelling in my whole body, especially in my legs. That is because during my pregnancy I had developed HELLP syndrome, which is characterized by swelling of the legs, high blood pressure, fatigue and weak urine flow caused by failing liver and kidneys.
Frequently after massage, I experience a runny nose for a couple of hours. I am tolerant of this side effect because I know this is my body’s way of getting rid of toxins stored in my extracellular tissues. This is important, because once the body has too many toxins to process effectively, disease ensues.
Lymphatic massage is helpful for:
■ Chronic sinusitis and allergies
■ Post-surgical recovery
■ Facilitating the detoxification process
■ Pre- and post-natal support
■ Injury recovery
Relaxing the nervous system
The day of my father’s memorial service, I was a jumbled mess of swirling emotions and frayed nerves.
Through my tears, I gave one particular massage therapist a call because I knew her soothing touch would calm me and help me prepare for the task of laying my father to rest.
This soothing and relaxing type of massage is important to relax the nervous system. This style of massage is especially helpful for:
■ Stress management
■ Anxiety and depression
■ High blood pressure
■ Peripheral neuropathy
Releasing muscle tension and improving posture
We continually put our bodies through physical stress, which is why we benefit from regular care. As I am writing this article, I am noticing my old tendencies to slump forward. Before I was taught by my body workers to correct this poor posture, I had chronic neck and jaw problems.
Our postural habits can literally get stuck in the fascia that connects muscles and organs, slowly turning us into statues if not remedied. A good, old-fashioned massage will stimulate blood flow and break apart stuck fascia that holds us in uneven muscle patterns (which we rarely recognize ourselves until we are in a significant state of pain).
This style of massage is helpful for:
■ Neck and shoulder tension
■ Lower back pain from poor posture
■ Plantar fasciitis
■ Injury prevention
Massage therapy has been and continues to be an integral piece of my own health care plan.
A good and well-experienced licensed massage therapist can help you discern the type of massage that is best for you at any given time. It is helpful to work with a massage therapist who readily communicates with your entire team of health care providers.
That is because multiple modalities can facilitate the body’s healing process in different ways.
For example, acupuncture sets up the body to reap the benefits of massage more readily. Acupuncture and massage combined allow chiropractic care or physical therapy to be more effective.
Quite often, prescription pain killers and muscle relaxants can be avoided, making your medical or orthopedic doctor pleased with your results.
Dr. April L. Schulte-Barclay is a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and a licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing in Grand Junction since 2004 and is an expert and leader in integrative and collaborative medicine.