Week 44's challenge was to get a massage, what a treat! But massage also has some really wonderful health benefits that are not only for your body but also for your mind. I got in touch with Ariana at Spirited Away Massage (read our interview with her here) and she came and gave me a treatment.
There are lot's of different types of massage therapy, but I received a deep tissue treatment. With a deep tissue massage essentially all muscle groups are worked by the therapist stretching the fascia and making space for muscles to function better. It can help with a number of things such as building up strength and balancing muscles - say you have stronger muscles on your right you can use massage therapy to work on strengthening the muscles on your left.
Deep tissue massages help stimulate blood flow and they help to relieve muscle tension, alongside releasing happy hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin, and also providing and outlet for psychological stress.
A study, published in Studies in Health Technology and Informatics found that If you have chronic back pain, using a course of deep tissue treatments can help significantly lower the pain, and deep tissue worked far better than therapeutic massage. So if you got some back pain book some treatments!.
You can also use it to treat stress and anxiety alongside tension within your muscles. As mentioned above a massage treatment can release oxytocin which is really helpful in reducing cortisol in your body. Cortisol is the stress hormone, it's fantastic in short bursts - it helps you get things done. But if you're constantly functioning in stress mode it can take a toll on your body as it reduces your immune function. Oxytocin reduces cortisol, it reduces stress and which is held in your muscles so a treatment can really help relax you both physically and mentally.
Is can also help if you have high blood pressure. A study using 263 volunteers found that by having a massage between 45-60 minutes long, their blood pressure had dropped and they all had an average drop in heart rate by 10.8bpm post treatment.
If you're pregnant or in labour you can have a treatments to help with the pain. If you have scar tissue - deep tissue massage can help to break it up by stimulating blood flow. And there are benefits for athletes, people who exercise a lot and for people with chronic pain such as arthritis. Basically, massage is great for anyone.
HOW DID IT GO?
I always love getting treatments from Ariana, she know's exactly what she's doing and she's good at it. The first time I met her she guessed I used a shoulder bag from the imbalance in muscles on my shoulders. I bought a back pack soon after to help fix that problem. She also noted that I'm quite slouchy so part of the therapy would be to work the muscles to pull them back into a position for good posture. She told me it's good to have regular massages, some of her clients have weekly bookings but I haven't seen her since April and I've been doing a lot of exercise in that time so I was well overdue.
The wonderful thing about having her do the treatment is that I'm familiar with her and she also knows what to expect from me. I've had a couple of massages as part of spa days before and it's always a bit weird when you're with someone you don't know. Though that might just be a personal preference.
Anyway, I'd exercised the day before and my arms were sore. She focussed on my back and said that the top of my spine and my shoulders were quite tense. She showed me an exercise you can do at home using a tennis ball and a door frame to regularly work that area on my own. She also showed me how to rub my neck as I have a little bump on the back on my neck that can easily be dealt with just by rubbing down from the base of the neck, down over the bone.
Once she got to my legs she said they were quite tight, and she thinks I actually carry my emotional stress there rather than in my shoulders or my back which I thought was interesting. I live in my own body but sometimes you need someone else to tell you what's going on with it.
I have been very achey for the last two days and moving my arms above my head has been a bit tough but it's been a good pain (despite my moaning). I felt relaxed after the massage which was in the morning and it was really nice just to have some mental space for myself before I started my day. And because I was in a good mood it meant that I was able to start my day properly and tackle all the things on my to do list without being worked up about it.
I would highly recommend finding somewhere to get regular massage treatments for anyone but especially if it can help anyone with the things mentioned above. Perhaps if you have a loved one who suffers from a bad back, high blood pressure or who is pregnant it might be well worth getting them a massage, not only for a treat but for the health benefits!