BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A stiff neck, an achy back, a strange shoulder pain that simply won’t go away.

Every year, thousands of people are hit with body pains that seem to come out of nowhere. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, approximately 39.0% of adults reported experiencing back pain in a three-month period, while 36.5% said they struggled with lower limb pain, and 30.7% had upper limb pain.

If you’ve suffered from one of the aches and pains listed above, you may be weighing options as to how to find lasting relief. 

The first step in investigating the cause of the pain is to consult with a physician.

After doing so, it may also be beneficial to seek the services of a licensed massage therapist. 

But how can a massage therapist help? 

The benefits of massage therapy 

A massage therapist is trained to manipulate the body’s soft tissues with the aim of managing a health condition or enhancing wellness. 

Sometimes we may think of it as a spa treatment designed to promote relaxation, but it can be much more. Three benefits are listed below:

  1. Massage therapy can actually reduce pain and increase circulation 

According to Susan G. Jones, a licensed massage therapist, and owner of Muscle Manipulators L.L.C. in Baton Rouge, “There are many really effective techniques in massage therapy that can assist in reducing pain stress and improving circulation.” 

Jones says three techniques she frequently uses to reduce a client’s pain and increase their circulation are:

Cupping– This involves the use of suction cups that gently stretch the fascia (a connective tissue that wraps around many of our soft tissues).

 The application of compression on tissue– During this process, the therapist applies compression to the tissue as s/he moves the joint through its range of motion to release tight tissue and improve the range of motion in the joints as well as the blood circulation. 

Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM)– This technique involves the use of tools to friction the skin and deeper tissues to increase blood flow and help make scar tissue, or tissue that feels restricted, more pliable. 

Jones told BRProud that the techniques listed above can be applied gently to people of all ages and activity levels. 

She says, “I highly recommend therapists that are familiar with these techniques for anyone who is dealing with pain and or loss of mobility. This is our specialty at the Muscle Manipulators.” 

2. Massage therapy can also reduce heart rate and blood pressure

Experts say that after a massage, there’s less pressure on the heart to circulate blood to the body, and this release of tension means the heart isn’t working as hard to pump blood. 

Reducing a rapid heartbeat helps to balance the body as well and relieve both physical and emotional stress.

3. Massage therapy can even reduce severe anxiety

According to Psychology Today, massage therapy can trigger feelings of deep relaxation and reduced anxiety. The journal says, “anxiety-reducing and mood-enhancing benefits of massage are probably related to changes in EEG activity, decreased levels of cortisol, and increased activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which acts automatically to calm the body and brain during stress.”

What to expect during a massage

Hard-working Louisianians are not strangers to pain.

A 2011 report from the Louisiana Department of Health noted that during a ten-year period, a total of 5,267 Louisiana-based workers were hospitalized with low back pain disorder.

Still, a number of locals shy away from seeking out the services of a professional massage therapist.

Some are intimidated by the process while others are simply unsure of what to expect. 

The Mayo Clinic addresses such concerns with the following explanation of what to expect after consulting with a physician and choosing a massage therapist: 

  1. Before a massage therapy session starts, your massage therapist should ask you about any symptoms, your medical history, and what you’re hoping to get out of the massage. Your massage therapist should explain the kind of massage and techniques he or she will use.
  2. In a typical massage therapy session, the therapist will leave the room and you will undress or put on loose-fitting clothing. Undress only to the point that you’re comfortable and then lie on a table and cover yourself with a sheet. As an alternative, you can also have a massage while sitting in a chair, fully clothed. Your massage therapist should perform an evaluation through touch to locate painful or tense areas and to determine how much pressure to apply.
  3. Depending on preference, your massage therapist may use oil or lotion to reduce friction on your skin. Tell your massage therapist if you might be allergic to any ingredients.
  4. A massage session may last from 10 to 90 minutes, depending on the type of massage and how much time you have. No matter what kind of massage you choose, you should feel calm and relaxed during and after your massage. Breathe normally throughout your massage. 
  5. Your massage therapist invites communication. For example, if the therapist plays music during your massage or talks to you, but you prefer quiet- they’d like to know this. Even more importantly, if a massage therapist is pushing too hard, you should speak up and ask for lighter pressure. Occasionally you may have a sensitive spot in a muscle that feels like a knot. It’s likely to be uncomfortable while your massage therapist works it out. But if it becomes painful, speak up.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also acknowledges that a trained massage therapist can be incredibly beneficial to people who suffer from pain or anxiety. 

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