A trip to the spa for a massage can be much more than a day away from work and the kids. For some, a trip to the spa for a massage is prescribed by a doctor for the immediate physical and mental benefits.
“Massage is a good thing for patients to do because from a physical and mental standpoint, massages can improve their overall health,” explained Dr. Lili Leavell-Hayes, owner and medical director of Aesculapius Medical Spa and Wellness Institute. Patients come there for treatments and services to enhance their health and prevent illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension.
According to research, massage therapy can increase relaxation by raising endorphin levels such as serotonin. Massages also maximizes circulation to tissues and joints. Heart rate and blood pressure are also decreased due to massages.
Additional benefits of massages include increases in range of motion and flexibility of joints, improved posture by relaxing muscles and reducing muscle spasms, pain management by increasing endorphin levels in local areas where the massage occurs, lessens headaches and migraines, clinical effects of depression and anxiety, and perception of pain.
According to experts, massages can benefit patients with diabetes by increasing circulation to hands and feet and lymphatic drainage enhances the immune system and reduces swelling.
Like patients with diabetes, patients with high blood pressure benefit from massages with decreased heart rate as well as lower blood pressure. Massages can also help cancer patients to relax and be mentally focused.
According to Mary Lynn Hoffmann, CompleteLife program coordinator at IU Simon Cancer Center, cancer patients benefit from massages with better circulation throughout the body, blood vessels dilate, blood flow increases, oxygen supply is increased, and stress, insomnia and nausea are reduced.
The side effects of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy can be reduced by the benefits of massage therapy. According to an American Cancer Society study, receiving therapeutic massages has positive effects on cancer patients.
At the IU Simon Cancer Center cancer patients who are prescribed massage therapy receive massages free of charge. This opportunity is funded by the Debbie’s “Make You Smile” fund in memory of a cancer patient.
“We wanted to provide massages because we’re aware of the relaxation and stress reduction benefits of massage therapy,” said Hoffman. “When you’re going through cancer treatment it’s important to be healthy and relaxed. We hope our patients go through massage therapy so they can concentrate on being as healthy and relaxed as possible.”
Patients at the IU Simon Cancer Center may be prescribed a massage once a week for a month. Patients report the benefits of receiving a massage last a week up to two weeks.
According to Dr. Leavell-Hayes, a patient with chronic pain may be prescribed massages to handle pain and a patient with multiple sclerosis can benefit from a massage by having the pain lessened and blood flow is increased.
In 1994, Shelli Ross was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and health care professionals recommended she begin a massage therapy regimen.
“Once I started getting massages, I was hooked,” exclaimed Ross. “My muscles were relaxed and I had better movement. Before a massage my muscles would be tight and rigid but after a massage I would be fluid and limber in my movement.”
Patients have several types of massages available such as pre-natal, hot stone, sports, reflexology, deep tissue, and a Swedish/light touch massages. Certain massages have certain benefits and a doctor will be able to prescribe which type is best for each patient.
A pre-natal massage is best for pregnant women because it increases lymphatic drainage which increases blood flow to the uterus and helps the baby’s breathing. A prenatal massage will also help a woman focus, relax and concentrate on her breathing techniques that will be useful during childbirth.
A hot stone massage relaxes muscles and is good for people with tight muscles or spasms after an injury such as a car accident.
In the same way a hot stone massage is good for car accident victims, a sports massage is excellent for anyone with a sports related injury. A sports massage will increase the range of motion of joints and increase flexibility of the injured extremity.
Reflexology is a type of massage that pinpoints pressure points in the body especially in the hands and feet. This type of massage will help increase circulation and boost the immune system. Reflexology is a good type of massage for patients with diabetes.
Similar to reflexology, a deep tissue massage is good for athletes and helps to relax the muscles. A deep tissue massage would be painful to a patient with fibromyalgia; instead they should receive a Swedish/light touch massage.
A deep tissue massage is the type of massage Ross enjoyed most. A deep tissue massage is known to relax hard, stiff muscles and also releases toxins your body is storing. Ross has also tried Swedish/light touch and reflexology massages.
Due to the disease Ross is unable to work and since her vision has been affected by multiple sclerosis she has difficulty getting around and going to a salon to receive a massage. Ross enjoyed the massage experience most when a massage therapist visited her home. Family and friends have purchased massage gift certificates for Ross, which she greatly appreciates and is looking forward to receiving her next massage soon. Ross has gone a year without a massage but at one time she went once a week for a massage.
“I truly saw a benefit when I went that often,” explained Ross. “My shakes and spasms would stop when I got massages frequently.”
Massage therapy is usually not covered by insurance companies. Ross has always had to pay out of pocket for her massage therapy sessions.
A patient may be prescribed a massage therapy regimen by their physician according to their specific needs. A patient should consult with a doctor to determine the best type of massage therapy plan for their condition including how often to receive a massage as well as the duration of the massage session.
Massages are normally done for 30 minutes or an hour. A 30-minute massage can cost $45 to $60. An hour-long massage can cost $65 to $90.
Although the cost of massages can add up quickly the immense medical benefits are priceless to those who receive them to alleviate medical complications.
“Don’t compromise your body for your wallet,” said Ross. “Don’t shortchange yourself because you only get one body. If you don’t take care of it, nobody else will. We have to spend our money wisely. You have to think to yourself, ‘What’s gonna be best for me?’ God gave me one body and I have to be a steward and take good care of it.”
For more information visit www.cancer.iu.edu.