For years, I resisted getting a massage, fearing I was too ticklish and would embarrass myself by laughing out loud on the massage table.
Then one day while traveling with a press group I was offered a free massage and, egged on by the group leader, decided I might as well give it a try.
Five minutes into it, I was already hooked, and would have kicked myself for missing out on all those massage-less years if I hadn’t been so relaxed I couldn’t move a muscle.
This guest post by Dr. Brent Wells, a chiropractor based in Anchorage, Alaska, delves into some of the reasons why massages are particularly helpful to travelers, and gives a rundown of the types of massages you can choose from.
By the way, after having dozens of massages during and after my travels, I’ve never burst out laughing. I did cry out in agony once when I was mistakenly booked for a deep tissue massage that went a little too deep for my taste.
But a therapeutic and comforting Swedish massage while traveling or returning post-trip is one of the things I miss most in these pandemic times. Dr. Wells helps explain why massages not only feel good, they are like a tune-up for active travelers who may have acquired sore muscles or other ailments.
By Dr. Brent Wells
Most of the time, traveling is fun. But sometimes the rigors of the road can cause bodily ailments that put a damper on your trip — or possibly prevent you from taking future ones.
But massage therapy can help. Here are a few reasons you need a massage:
Common Traveling Ailments
No matter how seasoned travelers might be, everyone has to deal with some type of ailment. Some of the most common are:
- Back pain
- Jet lag
- Altitude sickness
- Joint stiffness
These will range in severity, of course; some are barely noticeable, while others may cause great pain and discomfort.
5 Benefits of Massage Therapy for Baby Boomers
- It Calms Muscle Tension
If you are active during your travels, your body will probably feel sore or tense. A massage works to reduce muscle tension by stretching out the muscles and surrounding tissues. This prevents them from knotting, which would otherwise make it hard for you to move without pain.
Massage therapy calms muscle tension by warming up the muscles and increasing blood flow, promoting relaxation.
- It Improves Your Flexibility
Traveling requires you to stay flexible. Massage therapy improves your flexibility by preventing muscle tension and eradicating inflammation. A massage will also increase fluid around your joints. This stops them from rubbing on each other, which can cause painful friction.
- It Helps with Stress
Post-vacation stress is a common problem. Your body is getting used to doing its regular routine again and feels a bit anxious about it.
Massage therapy can reduce stress. Various massage techniques work to release hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin that trick your brain into feeling more positive. Massage will also release muscle tension, which otherwise can make your body feel agitated.
- It Boosts Your Immune System
Traveling can put your immune system into dangerous situations. While your immune system is designed to fight against illnesses, if it’s not cared for, it might not protect you as well as it should.
Massage therapy boosts your immune system by increasing blood flow, helping to flush out toxins in your body. It’s also been shown to significantly increase your body’s level of lymphocytes — white blood cells that are crucial to fighting pathogens. And massage therapy can also lower cytokine levels, a protein that causes inflammation.
- It Will Help You Sleep Better
Traveling can wear your body down, especially if you’re moving in and out of different time zones. This can confuse your circadian system, making it more difficult for you to get a better night’s sleep.
Massage therapy can help by treating insomnia. As the massage therapist works on your body, you’ll find your muscles start to relax. These motions will also encourage the release of serotonin, a type of amino acid that calms your brain — helping you fall asleep faster.
Types of Massages
There are a variety of massage types your massage therapist might recommend you try after your travels.
A Swedish massage is one of the most popular massage types because it focuses on relaxing all parts of your body.
A massage therapist will use long strokes to increase blood flow to your heart and to tight muscles. These motions will also improve your flexibility because they provide fluid in and around your joints.
This type of massage focuses on your body’s soft tissues and is designed to treat muscle tension and strain.
While similar to the Swedish massage, a deep tissue massage uses more pressure. For this massage, therapists will use both their hands and elbows.
A reflexology massage applies pressure to parts of your hands, feet, and ears. By applying force to the areas, it increases blood flow to both them and connecting organs. This type of massage also flushes out toxins, improves your concentration, and provides you with more energy.
A shiatsu massage uses meridian points known as Ki to provide energy and healing to your body.
Massage therapists use their fingers to press on sections in these meridians for a few seconds each to release endorphins, while loosening tightness. Shiatsu is best for stopping fatigue and reducing stress.
As its name suggests, a hot stone massage incorporates heated stones into the massage, which the therapist places down your spine. This helps to awaken the nearby muscles, increasing blood circulation and preventing muscle stiffness. Because the stones heat your body up, the massage therapist can get deeper into your muscles to provide relief.
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C., founded Alaska’s Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. Besides spinal adjustment, his clinic has treated thousands of Anchorage patients through massage therapy and physical rehab therapy designed to provide long-lasting relief. A member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians, he has authored more than 700 health-related articles and continues his education in the fields of neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.