Massage as Medicine? Really?

Image 4

With all the talk about Obamacare going around, I’ve had health insurance (and just health) on the brain lately. It so happens that I’m also personally interested in topics of health and wellness, especially how our society addresses health collectively. So, when a friend asked me the other day what three main suggestions I had for staying healthy, I answered without hesitation: “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants” (full credit to Michael Pollan for that), move as much as you can, and get regular massage.

Now, I suspect I know what you’re thinking … massage?! Seriously?! Should that really be up there with healthy eating and exercise? In a word: YES.

Image 1 (1)

Now, before I go on, I should probably address something important: I am not a medical practitioner. I did not go to medical school, and I have no practical medical experience outside of some medically related copywriting and sticking the occasional band-aid on my ever-rambunctious son’s scraped knee. I do consider myself rather well read on the issues of health and wellness, especially massage, but admit that my expertise ends there. In short, feel free to take everything I say as exactly what it is: informed opinion, but opinion all the same.

So, now that I’ve made my little medical disclaimer, I’ll tell you why I included massage in my list, and why I think you should, too.

Image 2 (1)

As a nation, we are less healthy than we’ve ever been. You’ve probably heard the statistic recently floated in scientific and nutritional circles that this will be the first generation of children who will not outlive its parents. This should concern us (and I like to think that it does). The most prevalent reason for our health crisis has to do, not surprisingly, with processed foods and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. I know, I know: It doesn’t have to do with a lack of regular massage. Still, hear me out:

Massage, in my experience, is powerful preventative medicine. In conjunction with an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits, I think it can do untold wonders. Frankly, I think it can even do wonders in their absense. Massage has been clinically shown to increase circulation, reduce inflammation, reduce chronic and acute pain, lessen the frequency of migraines, speed athletic recovery, and release feel-good, anti-stress hormones. That’s no small task.

What’s more, massage is a self-centered experience in the most positive of ways. Massage is something you do for yourself away from life’s mounting pressures and worries. As a working mother of small children, I can tell you without hesitation that even an hour of massage a week helps me work through emotional issues and better cope with the stresses I know are inevitably on their way. This is important. It’s as important as reduced inflammation and athletic recovery. Why? Because happier people tend to have stronger immune systems. In other words, they’re healthier.

There are, of course, plenty of things you should avoid to stay safe and healthy: smoking, certain types of drugs, not wearing a seatbelt or texting while you drive. Lots of people have covered those dangers far better than I ever could. And I’m also not suggesting that other things might not provide benefits to the same end as massage therapy, but I doubt any of them feel quite as good as massage does or give you the same opportunity to unwind. That’s worth something.

I think it’s worth a lot, actually.

So, yeah, if I had to suggest three things as general preventative medicine, as your best shot for staving off illness, those are the things I’d do. In fact, they quite literally are the things I do. And, as it turns out, I have a massage booked tonight. Lucky me.