Nearly one-fifth of American adults undergo massage therapy at least once every year. More and more people are choosing to visit spas or get into the habit of sharing massage therapy with a loved one at home; once you’ve experienced a massage it’s evidently a hard thing to live without. But all the positive talk of massage therapy isn’t simply the reflection of a cultural trend – there are actual health benefits at play.

Before we get to that, it’s important to brush over the basics of safety and comfort for anyone considering giving massage therapy a try:

– For folks interested in seeking out a masseuse, keep in mind 44 states including the District of Columbia regulate massage therapy, while many counties and cities require their own hurdles. It’s important to fully vet a spa or independent masseuse to ensure these regulations and certifications are being followed and completed.

– For people looking to set up their own massage spot at home, bear in mind not all massage tables are created equally. According to Earthlite, there are actually many factors to consider when picking between a portable or stationary table. These include price, weight capacity, and which kinds of massage techniques want to be achieved.

The health benefits of massage therapy include:

Improving posture: Hours of sitting at a desk leaves most of us with a bad posture. Many of our back and neck muscles get bunched up and twisted and remain that way long after the work day is done. Massaging these areas untangles the mess created by our unnatural sitting postures throughout the day, making posture better overall.

Encouraging better sleep: Research indicates even babies sleep better after experiencing their own mini-version of massage therapy. Relaxed muscles calm the mind, and both contribute to a better night’s rest. It doesn’t have to be right before bedtime, as bodies continue to experience the physical and mental benefits of massage therapy for days afterwards.

Relieving muscle pain: The iconic reason why people seek out massage therapy, muscle pain relief through massage is more than just the product of applied human touch. Circulation is improved and thus pain is truly lowered in the inflamed parts of the back and neck. Studies show massage therapy works just as well as medication in reducing back pain.

Strengthening the immune system: Massage therapy has been linked to an increase in white blood count in individuals according to a study published in 2010. This coupled with reduced stress, lowered pain, and better sleep makes for a stronger immune system all around.

Reducing anxiety: The role of trusted and familiar human touch in lowering our levels of stress and anxiety is encoded deep into the brain. It’s a subconscious sort of security and we all crave it in one form or another. Whether it’s realized or not, simply experiencing comfortable physical contact is enough to even put cancer patients in better moods, according to a study conducted in 2005.

Alleviating headaches: Many “tension” headaches originate in the muscles of the shoulders and neck. These can be alleviated through a deep massage of these portions of the body. If it’s at work or somewhere else less convenient than home or the spa then a self-applied neck massage can even help in a pinch.

Massage therapy is an ever-growing segment of alternative medicine. This can be attributed to the simple fact that massages are proven to help people improve their health and well being. Find a reputable masseuse or opt for a home-based table of high quality, and experience the benefits of massage therapy for yourself.

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