Does massage really reduce stress?
Yes, massage doesn't just "feel like" it relieves stress; it actually does reduce stress. There's been a great deal of research on this. Typically the research examines various physiological and biochemical markers of stress.
One major stress marker is cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenals in response to stress; cortisol is known to decrease immune function. Other major markers include serotonin and dopamine, beneficial neurotransmitters (they send messages between nerves) that affect mood, appetite, sleep, physical energy, movement, balance, memory, and learning.
A team of scientists recently reviewed over 30 research studies on the biochemical effects of therapeutic massage and summarized the results in a paper published in the International Journal of Neuroscience. The results indicated that, on average, levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased 31 percent. At the same time, the desirable neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine increased an average of 28 percent and 31 percent respectively. These numbers are impressive! Equally impressive is the fact that these beneficial changes held across studies focusing on diverse groups of clients -- including healthy individuals, people suffering from job stress and other emotional stress, and people suffering from specific autoimmune disorders, pain syndromes, depression, HIV, breast cancer, chronic fatigue, and other health problems.
Of course, massage feels good for many reasons! But it's nice to know that measurable beneficial changes in your blood and body chemistry are among the benefits you receive from massage.
Are there good scientific studies evaluating the effects of massage?
Yes, especially in the last 10 to 15 years, a significant body of academic research has documented a number of benefits from massage therapy. Massage has been studied in relation to anorexia, arthritis, asthma, ADHD, autism, and many more topics on through the alphabet.
The Massage Therapy Foundation, established in 1990, promotes research, funds research grants, and offers a searchable online database of research reports published in peer-reviewed academic journals in a number of languages.
The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine has conducted a number of studies, and their website offers a searchable database of the studies they have conducted.
If you're looking into other forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), such as acupuncture, chiropractic, or homeopathy, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, offers fact sheets about such treatment modalities as well as about specific health problems often treated with CAM.
How do you choose your therapists at Lotus Center?
Deep-tissue therapeutic massage is the most-requested treatment here, so our priority in building our therapist team has been to recruit the best massage therapists we can. Interpersonal skills are assessed through a face-to-face interview, and massage skills are assessed through interview treatments in which the therapists are rated on 12 different aspects of professional knowledge and skills. Our LMTs are all very talented and very serious about developing their skills to the highest level. All of us had more training than we were required to have to obtain a state license, and we continue to benefit from in-house mentoring and skill-sharing as well as professional education courses elsewhere.
What should I expect for my first massage?
Before your first massage, you will need to complete an intake form. (Our form is one-page, double-sided, and asks simple questions related to medical problems and old injuries.) Your therapist will review the form and conduct a brief interview, asking a few questions about your medical history and any preferences you may have in relation to your treatment.
A full-body therapeutic massage traditionally includes the back and neck, scalp and face, shoulders, arms and hands, upper chest, abdomen, gluteal area, front and back of the legs, and feet. Many clients request extra attention for a focal area (for example, the back or legs) and/or request that an area be skipped.
After the interview, your therapist will leave the treatment room while you disrobe and settle in on the massage table, where you will be under a sheet (and a blanket if you wish). During the treatment, you remain fully draped except for the area of the body being treated at a given time (your left leg, for example). You are of course able to continue to communicate with the therapist about ways s/he can ensure that you are comfortable and that the massage meets your needs, for example in terms of your preferences for pressure.
After the treatment, your therapist will leave the room while you dress. Then you can share additional feedback with the therapist, who will make notes for future reference and may suggest stretches or offer other simple recommendations for self-care.
What do massage consumers say about massage and about Lotus Center?
The American Massage Therapy Association conducts occasional surveys on the use of massage and what massage consumers say, and provides summaries of these surveys on their website. For example, 24 percent of Americans had a professional massage in 2006, and those seeking relief from pain found massage therapy more effective than most other forms of treatment.
Lotus Center therapists are always eager for feedback from our clients on how to meet your needs as effectively as possible. Click here to read review-type comments and testimonials by our clients.