Monday Medical: Massage therapy is more than pampering
August 5, 2013
Steamboat Springs — The very word "massage" conveys a feeling of relaxation. Can't you just see the softly lit spa, hear the soothing music and get heady imagining the delightfully aromatic oils?
Although these elements are a welcome part of a massage experience, this ancient healing art often transcends the pampering to focus on pain relief and other physical benefits.
"Massage therapy is beneficial for maintaining health and well-being," said Sarah Freese, massage therapist at Yampa Valley Medical Center's Integrated Health. "Massage is not just a luxury or something to do on vacation."
Freese will explain the benefits of massage, what to look for in a massage therapist and other basics of her specialty in a free Taking Care of Me presentation at Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Her program is titled "Massage Therapy: It's Much More Than a Luxury, It's Health Care." The talk will begin at 6 p.m. Aug. 14 in the hospital conference rooms.
Freese's interest in massage began while she was studying physical therapy and working in a busy clinic. She was asked to assist with some soft-tissue work and saw how "it helped the patient immensely."
Freese, who never had received a massage herself, switched her major. After receiving her associate degree from Boulder College of Massage Therapy, she has continued her education in oncology massage, prenatal massage and Qigong healing.
In her 11-year career, she has seen numerous other examples of massage contributing to wellness.
For example, Freese and fellow Integrated Health professionals have found that Yampa Valley Medical Center inpatients who receive healing therapies such as massage or acupuncture reported a 15 percent decrease in pain, depression, anxiety and stress.
"People who have chronic discomfort find it extremely beneficial when a massage therapist works on the injury," Freese said. "Unless there is a more serious problem, such as a muscle tear, I think it is often more helpful to get therapy than to dull the pain with medications."
Massage therapy was part of ancient cultures in China, Japan, India, Egypt, Greece and Rome. It reached the U.S. in the 1850s when two American physicians who had studied in Sweden began promoting massage for a variety of health purposes.
The American Massage Therapy Association reported that 43 percent of individuals in a recent survey stated that their primary reason for receiving a massage was medical. Another 32 percent cited stress.
In her presentation, Freese will cover specific reasons why people seek massage therapy. Poor posture is a big one.
People who spend long hours hunched over a keyboard and staring at a computer screen might not realize how their posture is being affected or how good it feels to have those tense muscles kneaded, Freese said.
Low back pain and repetitive motion injuries are common among construction workers and athletes, she added. In our hectic, modern world, where we all feel we are balancing too many things, stress can be another cause of pain.
Freese's program will explain the basics of massage therapy, what to expect in a massage session and what to look for in a massage therapist, including education, certification and communication style.
"When selecting a therapist, it's important to have a rapport," Freese said. "Some people who have never had a massage may feel uncomfortable about the process. They need to be able to talk to and trust the therapist so they get the most out of their experience."
Christine McKelvie is a writer/editor for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.