Monday, August 08, 2016


The wonders of massage therapy

There are few things more pleasant and relaxing than getting a massage. Massage has been practiced for thousands of years. According to WebMD, there are more than 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of pressures, movements, and techniques. These all involve pressing, rubbing, or manipulating muscles and other soft tissues with hands and fingers. Sometimes even forearms, elbows or feet are used.

For her birthday this year, we gave my mother a gift certificate for an hour-long massage from my friend Lisa Mazzaro, owner of “All About You” Massage in Gales Ferry. After her massage, my mother said that was the best possible gift we could have given her. Lisa says, “There is no age restriction on massage. From infants to elderly, massage techniques can be adapted to fit your needs.” My mother certainly supports that premise since she just celebrated her 95th birthday.

Besides simple relaxation, numerous studies have proven the health benefits of massage therapy, including:

Back pain relief. Massage has been shown to relieve back pain and stiffness and improve function.
Headache pain relief. Another type of pain — headache — also responds to massage therapy, as shown by more than one study. Massage therapy may possibly reduce the number of migraines a person has.
Improved sleep. Insomnia is associated with a lack of serotonin. Massage increases serotonin levels.
Relieve depression and decrease stress. According to WebMD, A review of more than 12 studies shows that massage helps relieve depression and anxiety. It can lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, by up to 50 percent.

It’s important to take a health history prior to the massage so the therapist is aware of any health conditions and can subsequently tailor the treatment to the person. Some therapists require a physician’s note for people with certain health conditions before getting a massage.

Massage therapy is one of the services offered for cancer patients at the Center for Healthcare Integration (CHI) located in the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at Backus Hospital. Used as a complement to traditional Western medicine, massage can promote relaxation and reduce cancer symptoms or side effects of treatment. It may help reduce pain, swelling, fatigue, nausea or depression, for example, or improve the function of one’s immune system. It is important to note massage therapy doesn’t replace conventional cancer treatment — it is a supplement that may enhance its effect.

I am a convert to the benefits of massage therapy. It even helped me simplify my gift list next year: a gift certificate for a massage therapy session for everyone on my list.

Alice Facente is a community health education nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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