BENEFITS OF MASSAGE
Below are two articles for you to enjoy regarding the Benefits of Massage.
The Benefits of Massage Improve with Frequency.
By Karrie Osborn
More Than A Luxury: The Lifelong Value of Massage Therapy
By Lee Picciuto
What kind of massage client are you? Do you make an appointment after someone has given you a massage gift certificate? Do you try to get in every now and then for a stress-relieving tune-up? Or do you see your therapist religiously--once a week, every three weeks, once a month?

While getting a massage--regardless of how often--is incredibly beneficial to your mind and body, getting frequent massage treatments is even more powerful as a healthcare ally.

"Practicing massage therapists know that people who get massage regularly demonstrate greater improvement and notice a reduction in pain and muscular tension, as well as an improvement in posture," says Anne Williams, author of Spa Bodywork: A Guide for Massage Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006) and education program director at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.

"People regularly make a commitment to fitness. People regularly make a commitment to changing their diet. The difference they'd experience if they regularly made a commitment to massage is mind-blowing," Williams says.

Stress Killer
One way in which frequent massage can improve our quality of life is by alleviating stress. Experts say more than 90 percent of disease is stress- related, and nothing ages us faster--inside or out--than the effects of stress. As stress-related diseases continue to claim more lives every year, the increasingly deadly role stress plays in modern-day life is painfully clear. 
Massage is a great way to take charge and reverse the situation. Mary Beth Braun and Stephanie Simonson, authors of Introduction to Massage Therapy (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007), explain the benefits of massage therapy in the simplest of terms: "Healing input influences healing output." They note that frequent massage can reduce the accumulation of stress and improve overall health. "The benefits of massage are cumulative," they write. 

This being the case, it only makes sense that those aches and pains you see your massage therapist for might disappear faster, stay away longer, or even go away all together with more frequent visits. Stress might never reach those physiologically detrimental levels where the immune system is suppressed or the nervous system is sent into an alarm state if you are able to receive stress-relieving bodywork with some consistency. Not only would your body benefit by regularly unleashing its aches and pains instead of adapting to them, but your mind would have time to wash away the stresses of a life lived in overdrive. Both are critical pieces for living well.

Experts say the body and mind can learn to live more calmly, more efficiently, and more healthfully, when frequent massage shows the way. That makes for a healthier whole, allowing us to continue to live life at its fullest, even as we deal with each new stress or challenge.

Preventive Measures
In so many ways, massage is preventive healthcare. Yes, it can address injuries, scar tissue, and chronic pain, as well as provide relief for cancer patients and reduce hospitalization time for babies born prematurely, among so many other valuable benefits (go to MassageTherapy.com for more information on the myriad benefits of massage). But when the healthy, and trying-to-be-healthy, among us seek out massage on a regular basis, it helps us live a proactively healthier life.

Since bodywork influences every system in the body, there are enormous possibilities created by increasing the frequency in which you address those systems. It's best to discuss your session goals with your massage therapist and together devise a plan of frequency that meets your needs, while taking into account your therapist's best advice.

Body Awareness
According to Benny Vaughn, sports massage expert and owner of Athletic Therapy Center in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the benefits of consistent and regular massage therapy is better flexibility. "This happens because regular and structured touch stimulus enhances the nervous system's sensory and spatial processing capacity," he says. "That is, the person becomes more aware of their body's movement in space and becomes more aware of tightness or pain long before it reaches a critical point of mechanical dysfunction." 

Quite simply, frequent massage puts you more in tune with your body. "The consistency of massage therapy over time creates a cumulative stress reduction effect," Vaughn says. "The person becomes acutely aware of stress within their body long before it can create stress-driven damage." 

He says the consistency of receiving regular massage therapy has the potential to create the cumulative effect of feeling well and feeling better. "Ultimately when one feels good, our whole being follows suit on all other levels--i.e., decision-making is better, processing life events is better, and being happy is easier when you are not in pain or feeling 'heavy' or 'tight.'" 

Williams says she's certain people's lives would be changed if they could schedule massage and bodywork more frequently. "I encourage clients to commit to getting massage once a week for a month and then evaluate the results they get," she says. "I guarantee they will become massage enthusiasts for life."
One of the most frequently asked questions regarding massage therapy is if it's worth the expense? Massage is not just a simple back rub, nor is it just a "luxury" or occasional "treat." Research tells us that massage therapy is a valuable component of a well-rounded healthcare regimen, combating everything from chronic pain to the negative effects of stress.

Not Just a Back Rub
Some people are unaware of the great skill and knowledge that comprises a massage therapy education. I have had friends of mine express great surprise upon learning that I had to take anatomy, physiology, and other science-based classes during the course of my massage therapy education. When I explain my massage school curriculum to them, these friends usually utter variations of "Wow! I had no idea your studies were so involved!"

If you are trying to educate others about massage, have them consider the profession's educational and regulatory requirements. 

Education
Ask your massage therapist to tell you about the extent of his or her massage school curriculum and completed courses.

Regulation
Most states regulate the practice of massage therapy with licenses, certificates, etc. Usually, the completion of a comprehensive examination is also required for state or national certification.

Continuing Education
Many states and professional organizations require massage therapists to complete continuing education courses each year. This ensures that therapists learn about emerging modalities and current issues pertinent to the field.

Professional Standards
Many massage therapists belong to professional organizations and commit to upholding rigorous standards of practice and codes of ethics.

Through stringent educational standards, state and national regulation, continuing education requirements, and professional affiliations, the massage therapy profession has evolved beyond the "basic back rub" stereotype into a well-respected healthcare modality.

More Than a Luxury
The misconception that massage therapy is just a luxury is also prevalent. Some people believe that massage therapy is either an indulgence for the wealthy or a "treat" for special occasions. Most therapists have some clients who only come in once a year, usually for a birthday or special holiday. 

I have also encountered clients who have been influenced by others and made to feel guilty for spending money on a monthly massage session. These clients seem to think of massage therapy as a frivolity they don't deserve. They will say: "I try to explain the benefits I get from massage therapy to my spouse [friend, family member, etc.], but all they can focus on is the money being spent on a 'luxury.'" 

Admittedly, massage therapy has a monetary cost, but that should be weighed against the benefits of the treatment--diminished stress, decreased pain, improved moods, etc. There is usually a way to budget for a monthly massage with a bit of reprioritizing. 

Insurance Recognition and Employee Benefits
With the healthcare benefits of massage therapy increasingly being touted, many health insurance companies are choosing to include coverage for massage in their plans. Massage therapy is also included as a healthcare option in personal health savings accounts being offered to some employees, while many employers are providing coverage for various alternative health benefits, including massage. With this expanded recognition in the medical realm, massage therapy is definitely shedding its former perception as a luxury and embracing its new role: necessity! 

The Bottom Line
The bottom line I share with my clients is you do not need to be in pain or discomfort to benefit from massage therapy. In addition to being effective for pain relief, massage is also beneficial as a stress-reducing and wellness measure. In reality, massage therapy is an integral component of an overall health maintenance plan.