How massage can help you and your baby

Jodi Keysell, massage therapist, and owner of Newcastle Massage space, explores the benefits of remedial, relaxation and alternative massages.

Massage is perhaps one of the oldest healing traditions. Many ancient peoples – including the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and Indians – were convinced of the therapeutic properties of massage and used it to treat a variety of ailments.

Massage therapy (including myotherapy) is the practice of kneading or manipulating a person’s muscles and other soft-tissue in order to improve their wellbeing or health. It is a form of manual therapy that includes holding, moving, and applying pressure to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. When massage is used to improve someone's health, it is known as massage therapy.  It can reduce stress and anxiety, help with pain, relax the muscles and rehabilitate injuries, and medical practitioners are increasingly suggesting massage therapy to assist people in coping with illnesses like cancer, heart disease or chronic pain.

The benefits of Massage

One of the immediate benefits of massage is a feeling of deep relaxation and calm. This occurs because massage prompts the release of endorphins – the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that produce feelings of wellbeing.  Levels of stress hormones, such as adrenalin, cortisol and norepinephrine, are also reduced. Studies indicate that high levels of stress hormones impair the immune system.

Massage therapy is a treatment approach which involves hands-on techniques to increase circulation, relieve tension, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, improve sleep, and promote relaxation throughout the entire body, as well as many other benefits. The body’s soft tissue areas include the muscles, tendons, connective tissue, etc. If someone is tense and in need of a release, or they have been injured and have extensive muscle and/or nerve tissue damage that plagues their body, massage therapy might be worth exploring. Here are some benefits of massage therapy.

Reasons to get a Massage

1 - It's Relaxing

When the body is tense and under stress, it produces unhealthy levels of the well-known stress hormone, cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain, sleeplessness, digestive problems, and headaches. Massage therapy has been shown to decrease cortisol levels in the body. This enables the body to enter a recovery mode. Moreover, this form of therapy also triggers lasting feelings of relaxation, improved mood, and reduced stress levels.

2 - Promotes Muscle Relaxation

The purpose of massage therapy is to target the source of the body’s pain via eliminating tense muscles, increasing flexibility, and providing relaxation to the affected muscles as well as the body as a whole. Massage also promotes circulation to the affected or injured muscles, which increases nutrients and oxygen to the damaged tissues. In turn, this increased activity to the affected sites reduces stiffness and edema (swelling) in the muscles and joints, as well as increases flexibility to help reduce pain. Moreover, this form of therapy also releases endorphins (pain-killing hormones), which boost the dopamine and serotonin levels in the body. These hormones assist the body in many ways–physically as well as emotionally. Case in point, they promote healing, pain management, and feelings of euphoria, as well as help to calm the nerves.

3 - It reduces stress

Taking care of your body should be at the top of your priorities. By adding therapeutic massage to your routine now, you'll feel, look and simply be healthier far into the future. In fact, stress relief alone can improve your vitality and state of mind.  Research has shown that it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, relax your muscles and increase the production of endorphins, your body's natural "feel good" chemical. Serotonin and dopamine are also released through massage, and the result is a feeling of calm relaxation that makes chronic or habitual as well as acute or short-term stress much easier to overcome. Massage can cut your body’s level of stress hormones in half, which will alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.

4 - It can assist to lower blood pressure & increase blood circulation

Regular massage therapy sessions have been found to reduce blood pressure levels. In fact, some long-term studies have shown that a consistent massage program can reduce both systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number) blood pressure.  Massages help your blood circulation, and this offers a long list of benefits. For example, if you have any health conditions that slow down your blood circulation, massage will provide healthier skin, better organ functionality and improved cell growth.

5 - It can help improve posture

The primary cause of this pain results from poor posture. In fact, chronic back pain, which is the number one reason for missed work days and second most common cause of disability, is often the result of incorrect or poor posture while standing and/or sitting. Moreover, being overweight, poor posture, and repetitive or overuse movements can also contribute to the strain on the back and other potential problem areas. As a result, the added strain often causes spasms, pain, and tense muscles in the hips, glutes, back, neck, and legs. Massage therapy can help get the body back into proper alignment. In fact, improving one’s posture can be one of the most beneficial and relaxing aspects of massage therapy. Massage allows the body to relax and loosen the muscles made tense and sore via bad posture. In turn, this allows the body to position itself in its organic and pain-free posture.

6 - Assists in strengthening the immune system

When stress is combined with sleep disturbances and poor nutrition, the impact is directed at the body’s immune system. Its ability to naturally protect itself against infections, pathogens, and bacteria is greatly reduced.  Regular massage sessions not only help reduce stress, but can also boost the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity (activity level of the body’s natural “killer cells”) and enhances the body’s ability to deliver nourishment. Moreover, massage therapy can be a great addition to any exercise program. Much like regular exercise can keep the body fine-tuned, regular massage therapy can help keep the immune system strong and resilient.

7 - Heightens mental alertness & relieves insomnia

When you are given a chance to relax and de-stress through massage treatments, your levels of mental clarity and alertness increase.  Massage encourages an avenue for creativity, assisting our minds to have better creative thinking powers, organised thoughts, and increasing clarity. Massage can encourage this state of mind by relaxing the entire body.

At any given time, one-third of adults are experiencing a bout of insomnia, so it is no surprise that people are constantly looking for ways to improve their quality of sleep. Sleep studies have shown a very strong link between weekly massages and reduced insomnia. This is extremely important when you consider the many health issues that are caused by a lack of sleep, including a weakened immune system and a greater risk of depression.

8 - Increases mobility & flexibility

Most people are not nearly as flexible as they would like to be, and this often causes uncomfortable stiffness. Fortunately, a sports massage is tailored toward making it easier to increase your flexibility. By releasing muscle tension around joints, the range of movement in the joint can be increased. When a joint is no longer hampered by stiffness, muscle function can return to support and improve joint movement.

A word of caution

While serious side effects in massage therapy are extremely rare, minor side effects are can be common, patients receiving massage therapy have reported “some minor discomfort” in the day following treatment. This would mainly be a familiar slight soreness that is common after a massage, known as “post-massage soreness and malaise” (PMSM).

So what could possibly go wrong? Massage can…

  • directly cause new injuries, mostly bruises and nerve lesions (mostly quite minor, but not all)

  • aggravate existing injuries and chronic pain problems

  • distract patients from more appropriate care

  • mildly stress the nervous system

  • probably cause rhabdomyolysis (too much protein released into the bloodstream from crushed muscle)

 

A painful, alarming sensory experience can actually dial up pain sensitivity. Furthermore, vulnerability to this awful phenomenon is much more common and significant in desperate patients who already have chronic pain — so they seek and tolerate intense therapy.  People experiencing pain system dysfunction can have minor and major setbacks in response to excessively painful massage. The best thing is to consult your physician before receiving any further treatment if you do suffer from chronic pain.

Massage therapy appears to have few serious risks - if it is performed by a properly trained therapist and if appropriate cautions are followed. The number of serious injuries reported is very small. Side effects of massage therapy may include temporary pain or discomfort, bruising, swelling, and a sensitivity or allergy to massage oils.

 

Cautions about massage therapy include the following:

  • Vigorous massage should be avoided by people with bleeding disorders or low blood platelet counts, and by people taking blood-thinning medications.

  • Massage should not be done in any area of the body with blood clots, fractures, open or healing wounds, skin infections, or weakened bones (such as from osteoporosis or cancer), or where there has been a recent surgery.

  • Although massage therapy appears to be generally safe for cancer patients, they should consult their oncologist before having a massage that involves deep or intense pressure. Any direct pressure over a tumour usually is discouraged. Cancer patients should discuss any concerns about massage therapy with their oncologist.

  • Pregnant women should consult their health care provider before using massage therapy.

Regular massage as part of your wellness plan

Regular treatment is important if you want to gain the full benefits of any type massage. Like many things in life, a one-off session won’t give you a true impression of the potential for massage therapy to significantly improve your wellbeing.  Regular massage to relieve aches, pains, stress and anxiety can be an effective and nurturing way to promote your wellness and help you feel your best for whatever life throws at you.

A series of unique massage sessions specific to your needs can help you to regain mobility, flexibility, concentration, manage pain, and give you some vital ‘me’ time, when you can attend to your own physical and emotional needs.  Massage therapy can be particularly therapeutic if you feel alone or unsupported, or just drained from your everyday life. When you feel healthy and supported, you’re in a better position to create a happier present — and future for yourself.


Getting massage regularly does wonders for your health.  It has a profound effect on your circulatory system, which means the cells and tissues in your body are getting more of the oxygen and nutrients it needs; and your lymphatic system is functioning better. Your immune system therefore becomes stronger by receiving regular massage!  Another benefit is the relaxing effect on your nervous system, which reduces stress, improves sleep, and makes you better able to cope with life in general.  And of course, reducing muscle aches and pains is a big reason people seek out massage therapy.

For appointments or to find out more about pre- and postnatal massage please phone (02) 4953 9543.