Have you had your tires rotated recently? Have you been to the dentist for a cleaning? How about regular check ups for skin cancer signs? These not so fun appointments are preventative measures we take to keep life running smoothly. Without them things can and will go wrong. Maybe not right away but down the road you are certainly looking for trouble. We should be the most vigilant with taking care of our health. Many people do not realize massage therapy impacts your current and future well-being in ways beyond short term muscle relief or stress reduction. It’s time to think of massage therapy as part of your preventative health care regiment.
“BUT… My body doesn’t hurt”
The body is designed to adapt, when one mechanism fails another takes over. This is called compensation and massage therapists can feel where your muscles are compensating for long forgotten injuries, poor posture, and muscular imbalances. Remember that minor pain in your foot that disappeared on its own? Well it didn’t really and soon itwill surface as intense knee pain and you’ll find yourself asking the Orthopedic doctor how your leg could be hurting so bad even though you didn’t do anything to it. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from low back pain on a daily basis. Almost all will state it came on gradually with no previous injury to explain it. The body tells us through pain that what we’re doing is harmful. How often do we actually listen to the gentle nudging of minor soreness? The job of our brain is to take in all the stimulus coming from around and inside our body. Countless times throughout the day we say, “that’s not important right now” and the brain says OK and drops it. But that minor soreness means something, and when we fail to examine what might be contributing to the pain the internal body must compensate. The muscles and nerves cover for each other and nobody wants to do that for very long. Imbalance in the body always leads to a breakdown. The question isn’t, “am I hurting right now?” but rather, “what am I doing to prevent injury in the future?”
We schedule physician, dental, and eye examines in advance and do so typically without overwhelming pain or symptoms. Maintaining the health of our muscles and joints with preventative care should seem like a logical step, even in the absences of pain. Think of the oil change analogy. We follow a distinct schedule to have the oil changed which keeps the engine running smoothly. It’s something that you know you should do in order to prevent the engine from seizing up in the future. The same holds true for your body. Without regular maintenance, parts will breakdown, systems get stuck in destructive patterns, and sometimes you even have a catastrophic event. The feeling of needing a dental cleaning or needing a massage is not an accurate barometer in the realm of prevention.
Regular intervals of body work have been shown to significantly increase somatic (whole body) and localized relief. Sure seeking a massage once or twice a year “when you really need it” brings immediate relief but it hardly rectifies any problems you’ve developed through your day to day life. Low back pain, headaches, joint soreness, difficulty moving or stretching muscles, routinely lifting heavy objects, and prolonged sitting are all indicators that your body needs consistent therapeutic massage to prevent a complete breakdown.
“BUT… I’m already relaxed”
Are you? Consider these two scenarios. Whether you have experienced them or not pay attention to your gut reaction about each one.
You have work deadlines to meet, in-laws are coming to town, you’re constantly rushing from one task to another, children that say they hate you, and worrying if you will ever pay off your $15,000 in credit card debit.
Trouble falling asleep before midnight, utilizing caffeine and sugar to fuel your body throughout the day, not feeling accepted at home or work, lacking motivation to move, create, or learn, constantly fighting allergies, high blood pressure, low back pain, headaches, and arthritis.
A lot of stress going on there. The first list includes outside stress, the second is examples of internal stress on the body. These are consequences of not managing our reaction to the outside stress. They become habitual ways of dealing with life which in turn create more stress on the organs and survival systems of the body. If we continue to experience internal stress like chronic illness, poor diet, sleep difficulties, or physical pain then you really aren’t as in control as you think you are. Your body will pay the consequences. Maybe not today maybe not tomorrow but issues don’t just go away. They morph and your body compensates over and over until the pain is great enough that one will change.
Making it a priority to regularly slow down and reset will enhance your overall well-being with just a few consistent sessions. Not convinced? Remember our bodies are master adapters, our survival depends on it. But it also puts us out of touch with how our bodies are really holding up. One search on PubMed for the benefits of massage yielded 352 studies. See which resonates with you. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=benefits+of+massage
“BUT… I don’t have the time or money”
I wish this was a moot point based on the last paragraph about stress and the importance of self care. Our society has traded in a mantra of self-preservation for that of self-aggrandizing. It is ingrained in American culture, I can’t even say Western culture; our purpose for this life is to become strong, become rich, become the hardest working person in the world. This translates into working as many of the 24 hours a day as possible and never affording yourself the time to recharge. You can only be your best when you are at your best and that includes balancing the demands of life with sleep, physical maintenance, and rejuvenation.
We spend our time and money where our priorities lay. Not what we should be spending our money on, not how much time it takes to do a thorough job, it’s what is most important and gratifying to the individual. To see routine massage therapy as a worthwhile commitment comes down to making your health a priority. How we feel physically and emotionally is a major factor in how far we will go to seek relief. “Getting healthy” can be an overwhelming act. Going to the gym, sticking to a training routine, buying unprocessed food, planning meals, the list goes on! What separates massage from the other ways we take care of ourselves is you just have to show up for the appointment!! Exercising and dieting are important but making such lifestyle changes can feel drastic and require motivation, consistency, planning, and lots of time and money! Want the easiest path? Make massage therapy a priority and be amazed at your internal desire to eat better and move more naturally stems from a greater self-awareness of your body.
Let’s look closer at the cost of massage. Consider one, $70 massage a month for 3 months. This is the minimal stretch of time I personally believe is needed to experience the cumulative benefits of regular massage. Total cost for 3 months $210 plus tips, let’s say $10/massage for a grand total of $240.
$240 over a 90 day period equals: $2.66 a day. That’s….
48 ($5) Starbucks specialty coffees (3.7 a week)
30 ($8) fast food meals (2.3 a week)
80 ($3) beers (just 6 a week!)
16 ($15) dinners out (1.2 a week)
These are pretty low weekly averages. I’m guessing the average person spends twice as much each week on at least one of these not so healthy items; things that slowly seeps money from your wallet and hack away at your health.
Your health is worth it. Make your massage appointment ahead of time and schedule around it just like you would for a doctor’s appointment. Reduce some of the money spent on unhealthy habits you are already trying to kick and you’ll be well on your way to a more productive, more grounded, and livelier you!