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Do Massages Have Real Health Benefits?


Stress, depression and anxiety are extremely prevalent in modern-day society. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health claims that more than a quarter of all Americans suffer from some form of diagnosable mental disorder. According to their 2016 study, at least one out of every five adult citizens in the U.S. now lives with mental illness.

The topic of mental health is rather fascinating. Here are 5 facts about mental illness that everyone should know:

  1. More than 40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder.
  2. Nearly 21 million Americans report having chronic and/or manic depression.
  3. Mental illness affects people of all ages, sexes, religions and nationalities, plus it cares not about social status or financial wellbeing.
  4. Although there are some genetic components often responsible for its development, mental illness is not always an inherited trait.
  5. Contrary to popular belief, mental illness can sometimes be treated without invasive procedures or prescription medications.

With mental illness so common in this country, it’s no wonder why ambitious pharmaceutical companies are constantly introducing new medications in their clever marketing campaigns. However effective some medications may be, many prescription drugs for mental illness can be dangerous, unpredictable and are laden with dozens of potential hazards. Between the short-term and long-term side effects (some of which can be permanent) and the extreme withdrawal symptoms, mental illness meds can do more harm than good.

Fortunately, there are a variety of all-natural remedies that can treat or cure some mental and/or mood disorders without drugs. More serious mental illness may require a combination of treatments options. One of the most effective drug-free remedies just so happens to be a relaxing and beneficial pastime enjoyed by people all over the world: massage therapy. 

What Is Massage Therapy?

Targeted massage therapy is much different than the casual rub-down you may receive from a loved one. Professionally administered massage uses a variety of techniques and pressures to stimulate blood flow, release serotonin and dopamine, balance hormones and alleviate pain. Professionals incorporate reflexology and subluxation to provide instant pain relief and boost a patient’s mood.

The Top 3 Health Benefits of Massage

The country’s mental health epidemic keeps growing, but the safety of prescription medications and the efficacy of psychotherapy is often questioned. Those two trends account for the primary reason why so many people are turning to alternative medicine and non-traditional treatment options for relief and mental health management.

The powerful and proven perks of massage, especially when administered by a licensed chiropractor or physical therapist, are substantial regardless of a person’s physical or mental condition. The best documented health benefits of chiropractic massage include the following three which, oddly enough, have a curious mind-body connection that one can’t help but notice:

  1. It Improves Body Functionality

A stiff and sore body won’t usually function as well as a relaxed and limber one. As the best-known benefit, massage not only feels terrific but it also helps your body move better. Decreased range of motion, muscle tightness, joint pain, they can all be treated with the right kind of massage. Interestingly, targeted massage is shown to aid in digestion and hormone balancing as well.

Because of that, a good massage can get rid of headache pain, reduce the frequency of mood swings, help with constipation or diarrhea, eliminate nausea, induce drowsiness and produce the general feeling of wellness. Experts at our Anchorage’s Better Health Chiropractic clinic typically recommend getting a chiropractic massage or adjustment at least once a month for optimal results, however, patients are urged to remember that all cases are different.

  1. It Can Treat Anxiety and Depression

According to RMT (registered massage therapist), Heidi Ezzat, massage therapy is commonly used as a gentle yet effective tool to relieve anxiety, boost mood and treat the symptoms of depression which typically include things like:

  • Headache or migraine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle aches, cramps and spasms
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Bad posture
  • High blood pressure

Targeted massage treatments have the innate ability to soothe tired muscles while de-stressing the mind and body. The induced state of calm allows a person to use their coping skills more efficiently, even and especially if that person participates in routine psychotherapy or counseling sessions.

  1. It Helps with Insomnia and Circadian Rhythms

Did you know that sleep deprivation or oversleeping can contribute to stress, anxiety and depression? Your circadian rhythms and the quality of your sleep are both more important to mental health than you may realize. Insomnia is a common problem that in an of itself is not dangerous, but left unchecked it can cause serious health problems. Fortunately, massage improves a person’s sleep quality significantly, especially in the first few hours following a session.

Therapeutic massage is so effective, in fact, that it’s often used for chemotherapy patients who suffer from the various side effects of their treatment. According to a 2009 publication in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, targeted chiropractic massage had countless positive effects on the breast cancer patients it was administered on. Additionally, those patients later reported a better mood and quality of life overall.

5 Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Massage

Understanding and appreciating the benefits of massage is one thing; using therapeutic massage to your advantage is another. The key to getting the most out of your massage is to follow these 5 simple rules:

  1. Know What to Expect

Laying down on a massage table without knowing what to expect can make you tense, and that extra tension may make it difficult for the therapist to work out any kinks or induce relaxation. Talk to your physical therapist or chiropractor about the procedures and techniques he/she will likely use.

  1. Expect the Unexpected

Although you may be given the rundown on what kinds of procedures to expect, no therapist or chiropractor can tell you how the massage is going to feel. Keep in mind that you should expect some mild discomfort at first, especially if your muscles are extremely tight or you have joint pain. However, experienced massage therapists will know to gentle push the boundaries and improve your range of motion and flexibility.

  1. Trust the Therapist

As mentioned, registered massage therapists and licensed chiropractors know how to manipulate the body and work its various muscle groups to stimulate blood flow, relieve pain and encourage relaxation. Although it’s perfect acceptable to modify the parameters of your massage at any time, try to trust the therapist to do his/her job.

  1. Heed Any Aftercare Advice

There’s a lot more to getting a massage than simply laying on a table while a therapist rubs on your muscles. He or she will most likely offer you a list of aftercare instructions that are designed to help you self-soothe in between sessions. Take heed of that advice and each massage will become more therapeutic.

  1. Do It Regularly

While your habits and behaviors in between sessions is important, what matters most is that you get a massage as often as possible. Long lapses between appointments with your therapist or chiropractor create a barrier between you and the many benefits of massage. Try to schedule a 30-minute massage at least once every 30-45 days for best results.


Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using various services designed to help give you long-lasting relief.

Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.