Massage & Medical conditions

Welcome to the Health + Wellness page of Massage Chairs, Inc.
The information on this page is in no way a substitute for the advice of a physician, or certified or licensed massage therapist.

Summary:
The purpose of the page is to share information about the health benefits of massage therapy, which includes the results of clinical studies of massage as a therapy for specific medical conditions.  Links to these studies are included.

Introduction:
Regular deep tissue massage does so much more for the human body, than just relieve muscle tension and reduce stress.
Massage stimulates many of the body's 11 organ systems, which can improve your overall health and mood, and ultimately improve- your quality of life!

In a nutshell, here's how it works.
When your muscles hold any degree of tension, blood flow is restricted, which prevents the adequate flow of fluids, oxygen and nutrients into the muscles, connective tissues, and organs. 
Over time these restrictions can and will damage your overall health. 
Massage releases these restrictions, allowing adequate fluids, oxygen and nutrients to flow back into the muscles, connective tissues, and organs.
Massage also reduces harmful levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, while increasing endorphin levels and the feeling of well being!
Health is everything, and many of us don't appreciate it until we lose it.

Ok, let's get to it!
The Mayo Clinic website identifies massage as a valid medical method to reduce stress and pain. 
They've also stated that massage reduces anxiety, depression, and may help manage withdrawal symptoms.

Medical conditions that may benefit from massage include:

  •  - Anxiety
  •  - Arthritis
  •  - Back Pain
  •  - Depression
  •  - Diabetes
  •  - Digestive disorders
  •  - Fibromyalgia
  •  - Low immune system
  •  - Headaches
  •  - Insomnia
  •  - Muscle pain and soreness
  •  - Sciatica
  •  - Soft tissue strains
  •  - Stress levels

Massage and the Immune System.
Massage increases the activity level of the body's white blood cells, that work to combat viruses.
In 2010, researchers from Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in L.A. reported that people who undergo massage, experience measurable changes to their immune and endocrine response.
Blood samples were taken from 29 participants both before and after, one 45 minute Swedish massage session, and the results showed significant changes in lymphocytes and white blood cells, which play a large role in defending the body from disease.
There was also a decrease in levels of the stress hormone Cortisol.

Massage and Stress

According to an article on the NCBI website,  stress related health issues are responsible for roughly 60% to 80% of primary care doctors visits.

Most people experience stress on various levels, and typically on a daily basis.
When one is under long term stress, there will be higher and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream, which has been shown to have negative health effects, both physically and emotionally.
With increased Cortisol levels, the body is more likely to develop high calcium deposits in the arteries, which can cause 
plaque to build up in the circulatory system.

This is symptomatic of coronary heart disease. 

Stress can also play a part in health issues such as anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, headaches, high blood pressure, lowered immunity, and skin conditions.


The physical effects of stress include:
- Suppressed thyroid function.
- Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia.
- Decreased bone density.
- A decrease in muscle tissue.
- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body.

- Accelerated aging


The emotional effects of stress include:
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks.

- Becoming cynical.

- Becoming over-sensitive and defensive.

- Feelings of hopelessness, general negativity, guilt, and/or isolation.

- Impaired mental processing.

- Interrupted sleep patterns.
- Impatience and irritability.


Back Pain and Sciatica,

The sciatic nerve is a nerve bundle, composed of several nerves that originate in the lower back, then passes alongside the piriformis muscle, and proceeds down the back of the thigh between a number of muscles, to the lower leg and foot. 
The piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle located in the buttocks, near the top of the hip joint. 
This muscle is important in your lower body movement, because it stabilizes the hip joint, and lifts and rotates the thigh away from the body. 
This enables us to walk, shift our weight from one foot to another, and maintain balance.
If the piriformis muscle is strained, it can irritate or pinch the sciatic nerve, causing sciatic nerve pain. 
The pain can cause a slight tingling, but can also be so severe, that it can be disabling.
In many cases, a stretching routine combined with a deep tissue massage that targets the muscles affecting the sciatic nerve, will help the muscles to relax and relieve the nerve compression.
By relaxing these muscles, circulation is improved and the proper nutrients are allowed to flow to the surrounding tissues.
It's advisable to get sciatica diagnosed by a physician, because it can be more than strained muscles or muscle spasms that's causing your sciatic pain. 

Arthritis and Massage

Massage is manipulation of the skin, the muscles and the connective tissues, and is often used to relieve the common symptoms of many types of arthritis. These symptoms include reducing pain and stiffness, and improving the range of motion in joints. It also promotes restful sleep.


Light to moderate pressure is recommended for arthritic conditions, and is key in the stimulation of the nerve receptors that conveys signals to the brain.

This stimulation can help alleviate pain, release serotonin, and promote relaxation when the heart rate and blood pressure lowers.

People with arthritis who experience chronic symptoms may consider using massage on a regular or even a daily basis, to help manage their pain and stiffness, and also to help promote a better sleep. 


Deep tissue massage may be inappropriate for some people with arthritis, because it can aggravate the symptoms.

A lighter massage that targets the area(s) close to the inflammation, can be beneficial.


Poor posture and back pain

Correcting poor posture may be corrected by a combination of physical and massage therapy. 

Massage therapy focuses on undoing the hardening or fibrosis of the muscles that have been habitually contracted. 

This allows the muscles to relax, and allows the bones to move back into place.

Physical therapy strengthens these muscles, 


Massage and the Lymphatic System
Massage stimulates the lymphatic system, which is probably the most under rated system in the human body. 
The lymphatic system is responsible for detoxifying the body, by the removal of older fluids from the tissues, and transporting them to the lymph nodes, where they filter the wastes and return fresh fluids to your system.
The lymphatic system is also responsible for the absorption and transportation of fatty acids from the digestive systems, and stimulating the transportation of white blood cells to and from the lymph nodes, and into the bones.


Massage Therapy Statistics and Regular Health Maintenance

According to the 19th annual consumer survey sponsored by the American Massage Therapy Association, of the 85 percent of people surveyed, 52 percent claim they had massage due to medical issues, and 23 Percent claimed that stress was their primary motivator for receiving a massage in the previous 12 months.

Medical reasons included pain relief, soreness, stiffness or spasms, injury recovery, migraines, pregnancy or pre-natal, and general well-being.

  • 90 percent of individuals view massage, as being beneficial to overall health and wellness.
  • 91 percent of consumers surveyed believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain; with 28 percent of respondents stating they have used massage therapy for pain relief.

  • Americans' Reasons for Getting Massages Are Changing

Instead of seeking massage therapy solely for relaxation and pampering purposes, individuals clearly are turning to massage therapy to assist with medical conditions.

  • As few as 25 percent of individuals believe massage therapy is only a form of pampering.
  • 72 percent of consumers agree that massage therapy should be considered a form of healthcare.
  • 52 percent of people have received a massage for one or more of the following reasons: soreness, stiffness or spasms, to relieve or manage stress, to improve their quality of life, injury recovery or rehabilitation, to keep fit or maintain wellness, pregnancy/prenatal, or to control headaches or migraines. 

Health care providers and doctors are more commonly viewing massage therapy as a legitimate option to address health concerns.


Massage Benefits for Specific Medical Conditions - In alphabetical order:
A physician's consultation is recommended prior to the start of any physical or massage therapy.

Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Spinal arthritis, which is also called degenerative joint disease, is the breakdown of the cartilage between the facet joints in the spine, leading to low back pain.

The facet joints are the joints in your spine, that make your back flexible and enable you to bend and twist.

Nerves exit your spinal cord through these joints on their way to other parts of your body.

Healthy facet joints have cartilage, which allows your vertebrae to move smoothly against each other without grinding.


Massage is manipulation of the skin, the muscles and the connective tissues, and is often used to relieve the common symptoms of many types of arthritis.

Moderate pressure is recommended for arthritic conditions, and is key in the stimulation of the pressure receptors under the skin that convey signals to the brain.

This stimulation can the alleviate pain, release serotonin, and promote relaxation when the heart rate and blood pressure goes down.

People with arthritis who experience chronic symptoms may consider using massage on a regular or even a daily basis, to help manage their pain and stiffness.


Deep tissue massage focuses on both the top layer and the deeper layers of muscles and tissues, and helps to relieve tension and/or pain in the muscles and the connective tissues, but may be inappropriate for some people with arthritis, because it can aggravate the symptoms.

These symptoms include reducing pain and stiffness, anxiety, and improving range of motion in joints. It also promotes restful sleep.

Note: Avoid massaging any areas of inflammation areas during flare-ups. 


Massage for Cancer Patients

Please note that a licensed massage therapist who is specifically trained in massage for cancer patients, is the best way to administer massage therapy to the patient.


There are both pro's and con's to massage therapy for cancer patients.

Massage can increase lymphatic circulation, which can spread the disease through the lymphatic system.

However, light massage is increasingly used to reduce pain, fatigue, nausea,  stress, anxiety and depression, which can improve the patient's mood, and a personal sense of well being.


From the NCBI website: A study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC, that included 1290 cancer patients and 12 licensed massage therapists, evaluated the changes in symptoms scores for pain, fatigue, nausea,  stress, anxiety and depression.

Swedish massage, light touch massage, and foot massage were the 3 types of massage that were administered during the study. Swedish and Light Touch massage were found to be superior to foot massage.

The data from the symptom cards collected both before and at the end of the 1st session, showed that the levels indicated by scores decreased by approximately 50%, however the effects were short term.


Degenerative Disc Disease

Approximately 90% of people with lower back pain and/or sciatica from degenerative disc disease, will be able to successfully manage their pain and avoid surgery.

Back pain due to DDD can be managed using physical therapy, designed to reduce the stress on the discs.


Depression

Massage on a regular basis can reduce cortisol, and when cortisol levels are reduced, serotonin is increased.

By reducing cortisol and increasing serotonin, the symptoms of depression are improved.


Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia (FM) affects over 7 million people in the USA, FM is a chronic musculoskeletal pain syndrome, which can first show up as pain and around the joints in their neck, shoulders, back, and hips, and can progress into widespread pain over the entire body.

FM patients can also suffer from tension headaches, fatigue, stiffness and sleep disorders. There are documented cases that are so severe, that the individuals spend entire days in bed.

Lyme's disease should be ruled out as part of the Fibromyalgia diagnosis, as the symptoms are quite similar.


Herniated Disc

A herniated disc can occur when the disc is subjected to too much strain, usually by lifting injuries, although disc degeneration can play a role too.

The inner gel of the disc leaks out, and applies pressure to the nerve, leading to back, leg, or arm pain.

Back pain due to DDD can be managed using physical therapy, designed to reduce the stress on the discs.


Hypertension - High Blood Pressure

Massage releases stagnant blood out of a restricted area by relaxing the tight muscle tissues. The increase in blood circulation in these areas can increase the pressure on the vascular walls, which is why a physician's consultation is recommended prior to the administration of deep tissue massage.


Leg Pain and the Sciatic nerve

Certain leg pain can be caused by the nerve(s) that exit the spine in the lower back.

They can become pinched, and the pain may extend down the leg and even into the foot.

A pinched nerve can also cause tingling, numbness, or weakness.

See more below under Sciatica, Exercise, Stretching, and Massage Therapy.


Neck Pain

Neck pain can be caused by muscle strain or whiplash, but also can be caused by a number of medical conditions, including spinal stenosis, a herniated disc, osteoarthritis, or degenerative disc disease.

Consultation by a physician or chiropractor is recommended.


Osteoporosis and Spinal Fractures

Fractures can medically be caused by osteoporosis, which is a condition in which bones lose structural integrity and become brittle.

This is often caused by loss of calcium, or can be a side effect of the severe overuse of steroidal medications.


Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
If you stand up from your chair and feel a pain in your lower back, it could be your Sacroiliac joint, a.k.a. SI joint.
The sacroiliac joint is located below the base of the spine and above the tailbone, or coccyx.

The joint normally does not have much movement, but any change in the joint may cause lower back pain, which could be a dull or sharp.

The pain starts at your SI joint, but it can move to your buttocks, thighs, groin, or even your upper back.


Sciatica

The sciatic nerve exits the lower spine, and carries information between the brain and the legs.

When a lower back problem causes sciatic nerve compression, pain can radiate down the leg and even into the foot.

More about sciatica in the following section.


Scoliosis

Scoliosis is an abnormal side-to-side curvature of the spine, and develops mostly in adolescents, but can also be caused by aging and arthritis.

Massage therapy is not a cure for scoliosis, but it can provide temporary relief from the pain and discomfort.


Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is when a part or parts of the spine narrows, which can lead to the compression of a spinal nerve or the spinal cord in the neck.


Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebra in the spine slips forward over the one below it, which will cause lower back pain and/or leg pain. It commonly occurs in the lower spine.


Upper Back Pain

Pain from the thoracic region of the spine, is less common than from the cervical or lumbar spinal regions. 

Sore muscles and pinched nerves are the most common problems in the upper back.


Medical contraindications of Massage
Please consult with your physician or certified massage therapist prior to starting massage therapy, if you have one or more of the following conditions:

1 - If you're sick - Massage can accelerate the condition.
2 - Blood thinners - Deep Tissue massage may cause bruising.
3 - Blood clots, or have a tendency towards them - Massage may dislodge blood clots.

4 - Cancer - Working with a massage therapist specifically trained to work with cancer patients is recommended.

5 - Immediately after surgery.
6 - Infected injuries, unhealed wounds or rashes.
7 - Inflammation - Massage must be administered to the areas surrounding the inflammation.

8 - Recent fractures, ligament or tendon injuries, sprains, or bruises.

9 - Varicose veins - Massage administered directly over varicose veins may worsen the condition.


My own personal experience w/ back pain, sciatica, and massage.
In 1999, I personally was diagnosed with a herniated L3, a bulging L4, and disc degeneration.
This resulted in my own daily pain level averages of 3 to 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, and an occasional bout with sciatica.
Now this may sound like a sales pitch, but it's not intended that way.
The following is my personal experience, that I'm sharing so that it may help other people who are dealing with similar issues.
In December of 2014, my life took a turn for the better - when I first learned about full body robotic massage chairs. 
Since then, I've established a routine that I try to do at least every other day.
This routine includes a combination of core exercises for strength, stretching to remain limber, and massage, for many of the reasons listed above. 
#1 - Core exercises, such as leg lifts lying on my back, then leg lifts lying on my side, then finishing up with crunches. 
I've found that leg lifts are best done one at a time. to avoid stress on the lower back.
When done on a regular basis, this strengthens the core muscles, which provides natural support to the entire lumbar region, and allows the weight of the upper body to be evenly distributed over the front and the back. 
When body weight is properly distributed, stress to the lower back is greatly reduced.
#2 - Stretching at the end of every exercise session.
#3 - A minimum of 3 - 20 minute massage chair sessions per week, which compliments the exercise and stretching sessions, by relaxing and loosening up the entire body, in a way that stretching cannot. 

Combining core exercise  with stretching and massage, has reduced my lower back pain and sciatica dramatically, almost 100%, 
The only reason that my pain level starts to rise, is if I haven't had or made the time, and in reality, it really doesn't take much time out of the day. 
Even if you spend 5 minutes a day exercising, you'll see and feel improvement both physically and mentally after a few days, 
This is all my own personal experience, and you may or may not have the same results.
Nick Fahmie - President - Massage Chairs, Inc.