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Why Massages Are More Than Just a Frou-Frou Luxury

Massage is not just for relaxation anymore. It may actually improve your function.

Massage has taken a turn in the past decade. Most people used to believe — and some still do — that massage was a luxury. It was something you did on vacation, or at a spa, to relax and unwind. Well, that's true but it's not the whole picture. Massage has evolved into a form of therapy for recovery from injury and even to aid sports performance. It may be that for you massage is not just an extra, but something essential for your health and function.

So Many to Choose From

There are many different types of massage therapy. However, there are four basic types that are seen in most places: Swedish, deep tissue, sports, or trigger point. Swedish massage is more relaxing and gentle. If you've never experienced a massage before, this is a great one to start. Deep tissue is exactly that — the therapist uses more pressure and force to get deeper into the muscle tissue in order to release any tension. Sports massage can be a combo of Swedish and deep tissue techniques, but it is geared toward the athlete's needs to improve performance and function. Trigger point focuses on areas of your body that may be really tight or knotted. Those painful, tight areas can be released through this type of massage.

Why Are You so Tight?

Tight muscles, knots, and trigger points develop for a variety of reasons. An injury is one common cause. Car accidents can cause soft tissue damage such as whiplash, and a fall on the ground or down stairs can really wreak havoc on your body. Overuse is another common cause. Hunching over hours every day at your computer, constantly bending at your waist to pick things up off the floor, or repetitive motions performed during practice or athletic competition. It's also possible to over-train or do too much exercise without proper recovery time. Your soft tissue pain may be a result of one thing or a combination of causes.

Get On the Table

You won't really know how massage can affect you until you try it. Talk to friends and family to get recommendations for a therapist or place to try. Read reviews online, and even go to various spas or clinics to talk to them about their therapists, techniques, and costs. You want to find a place you are comfortable with, as most massage requires you to undress. If you're uncomfortable with that, try to find a place that offers a chair massage to start. You can feel some of the benefits, and get to know a therapist. Depending on your muscles, you may feel a difference immediately after a massage. Sometimes, it can take a few sessions. Give it a try, and feel better physically and mentally.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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