Add massage to your fitness routine

By: Kathy Hansen - Contributing columnist

Those of you who read this column regularly know that I am a huge advocate of “motion.” I think everyone should spend at least one hour a day moving, whether it be walking, running, lifting, or playing recreational sports.

The way I figure it, as long as I keep on moving, extra pounds, heart disease, and aging cannot catch up to me. So what would you think if I told you that it is equally important to occasionally lie down, be still, listen to soothing music and smell calming fragrances while someone with a strong pair of hands and a bottle of oil works the kinks out through a therapeutic massage?

My CrossFit adventures, while keeping me in great shape, often result in me being down right sore. Sometimes just getting up and down at church on Sundays takes a little extra effort. Recently, I started making monthly appointments for a sports massage to work on the areas that get tight and out of whack from too many power cleans and wall balls. My massage therapist, Edward, is a rock star at finding the rough spots and working them out. While this is not the relaxing kind of massage that most folks prefer, it is exactly what I need to feel super great the next time I hit the gym.

Receiving therapeutic massage is an important part of maintaining overall health. The benefits of massage both physically and psychologically are tremendous. Massage may well be the oldest and simplest form of medical care. Paintings in Egyptian tombs showed people getting massages.

Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, is quoted as saying, “The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing … for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.”

My apologies to Hippocrates, but I am not sure that massage actually does anything to tighten a loose joint but I can attest to the fact that it can loosen tight joints and muscles. I have been suffering from a low back injury for years. When it decides to act up, say after about two hours of full-court basketball, my entire back goes into spasm, rendering me pretty useless. On these occasions, some deep tissue massage is the only thing that gives me relief. Deep tissue massage uses pressure to ease muscle spasm and pain in a concentrated area.

Here is a quick look at some other common types of massage:

— Swedish: This is the fun one. A classic full-body relaxer, this treatment uses pressure with long relaxing strokes.

— Sports: Sports massage combines stretching, compression and range of motion techniques.

— Shiatsu: Originating in Japan as a form of physical therapy, Shiatsu alleviates tension, pain and discomfort. It is a gentle form of acupressure.

— Hot Stone: Hot stone massage combines hot stones with massage strokes to relax tired muscles.

Therapeutic massage offers many benefits, including relaxation, which causes lowering of blood pressure and heart rate, loosens and relieves muscle pain and spasm, increases range of motion, increases blood and lymph circulation, and stimulates and promotes proper sleep. Therapeutic massage is now in the mainstream of health care. Some insurance companies even cover treatments through alternative medicine benefits.

When choosing a massage therapist, it is important to make sure that they are licensed and have been through an accredited massage therapy program. In the state of North Carolina, therapists must have a state and a national license in order to practice. These licenses should be posted in their studio.

On your first visit to a massage therapist, they should have you complete a health questionnaire, find out what you hope to gain from your treatment, and tell you what to expect. Once you find a good therapist, make it your goal to get a massage at least once every few months. Fees will vary by therapist and are based on length of treatment.

Now that I have given you permission to lie down once in a while, make the most of it by scheduling yourself for a therapeutic massage. Look for massage therapists in your area and get an appointment. Your body will thank you.

Kathy Hansen

Contributing columnist

Kathy Hansen has over 30 years of experience in the health and fitness field. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

Kathy Hansen has over 30 years of experience in the health and fitness field. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]