Massage Benefit Workers and Employers Too

Are you interested in having a workforce that is happier, more energetic and more productive? Would you like to increase employee satisfaction ratings and reduce employee turnover?  Did you know that making chair massage available in your workplace can accomplish all of these things?


Extensive research into the benefits of massage bears this out.  When people experience a chair massage, which primarily focuses on the head and neck, it stimulates blood flow to the brain.  This alone can deliver significant results in increasing alertness.  One of the primary causes of workplace accidents and injuries is drowsiness on the job.


A typical chair massage is fifteen to twenty minutes, and concentrates on the upper body including shoulders, neck, back, arms and hands.  Your massage therapist will bring a special chair, which helps position the client in a proper seating position for maximum benefit.  These are the areas that need particular attention in the workplace today, because so much of our days are spent in workplace activities that physically stress these areas. Mental stress is one of the most costly problems that business owners have to deal with. 


A recent World Health Organization study estimated that the cost of stress for American businesses is $300 billion per year.  This figure was arrived at by considering the cost of absenteeism, job turn-over and lost productivity.  Offering chair massage in the workplace can reduce time lost because of stress related illness and injuries.  There have been many instances of an employee who felt that they needed to leave work because of a headache or other ailment but decided, after receiving a work site chair massage, that they felt well enough to complete their shift.


In addition to the obvious, direct benefit that a chair massage can have on workers who have spend a long day over the keyboard or standing on their feet, massage has been shown to have a positive impact on patients with two of the most costly chronic health conditions:  diabetes and high blood pressure.  Both of these conditions caused increased levels of mental and physical stress in patients.


For this and many other reasons, companies who offer chair massage in their workplace find that it is one of the most cost effective benefits they can offer.  One of the added bonuses for employers is that employees who receive workplace chair massage feel appreciated and cared for.  It’s this type of psychic benefit that really can’t be measured in dollars and cents.  But when employees feel this way, they are more likely to go the extra mile when asked.

Incorporating Regular Massages for Your Health and Wellness

Health and wellness massage therapy has been proven to offer various benefits that will be discussed in this article. If you have never received a massage for health reasons, now is a good time to try it. There is increasing evidence that suggests it can help in a myriad of ways to improve a person’s health.


Relaxation or Depression Fighter?


Massage therapy started as a relaxation therapy, designed to ease sore or tired muscles and ease tension and anxiety. Yet it was often thought this was just because of the relaxing way in which most massage is performed. It was not thought to have long lasting benefits, but simply wipe away the cares of the day. Research has proven that regular massages actually chemically change our biochemical reactions in our bodies.


A study on its affects on depressed or anxious individuals revealed that the stress hormone cortisol is reduced by up to 53% directly after massage. Cortisol drives up blood pressure, blood sugar and suppresses the immune system. The massage also increased serotonin and dopamine that aids in reducing depression. Massage therapy not only ‘feels’ like it changes our moods, it actually chemically produces internal physiological factors to help fight anxiety, depression and stress.


Muscle Therapy


Muscle massage therapies have now also been proven to fight muscle inflammation, reduce pain and swelling of the muscles, fight fibromyalgia and help chronic low back issues. A recent study in Canada found evidence on a cellular level that massage therapy directly after rigorous exercise actually reduced the production of cytokines, the proteins responsible for inflammation and swelling, much like anti-inflammatory medications.


Numerous studies on the effects of massage on osteoarthritis patients show that their pain levels decrease and become manageable without medication if provided with a consistent massage schedule. Patients in a chronic low back pain study were twice as likely as those without massage therapy to have reduced pain and increased function.


Fibromyalgia sufferers were treated to a regular massage against a control group of no such massage and the study had great success on alleviating joint pain and increasing quality of life issues directly after massage and up to one month after the program ended. Massage therapy has many benefits for injured muscles from a variety of causes.


Immune System Responses


There are many studies that espouse the benefits of massage on the immune system and how it helps our overall health and wellness. A recent study of pre-term babies that received regular massage therapy against a control group proved that it helped these babies increase their immune system pathogen fighting antibodies and increased weight gain over the control group.


Another large study proved that the immune system was changed as a result of one 45 minute session of Swedish massage compared with a control group that received no massage. The results showed:


  • A notable decrease in cytokines
  • A decrease in the stress producing hormone cortisol
  • A large decrease in the hormone Arginine Vassopressin linked to anger and aggressive behavior which also increases cortisol
  • An increase in lymphocytes the cells that play a large part in fighting off disease in the body.


The immune system is directly affected by just one such massage therapy session, imagine what a regular scheduled weekly or monthly massage therapy session could do for your overall health and wellness. Massage therapy aids in numerous other ailments including insomnia, stroke, sprains, whiplash, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, increasing circulation and joint mobility. Add it to your list of medicines and feel its healing effects.


There is more anecdotal evidence than ever before, and overlooking massage therapy as part of your regular wellness routine is a mistake in our opinion. Small businesses like Crane Massage Therapy have made it easier than ever before to access this service. Give it a consideration if you are serious about your overall wellness.


Neal Lyons is a writer and advocate of Massage Therapy schools and education. He writes about selecting the appropriate Massage Therapy Schools and helping aspiring therapists establish fruitful careers in the field of massage. You can read more of his work here.


Neal Lyons

Melinda Hauller

Jeanne Rominski


1-Currin, J. Meister, E.A. (2008) A hospital-based intervention using massage to reduce distress among oncology patients.  Cancer Nurs. 31(3):214-21.

2-Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, P., Bresee, C. (2010) A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(10), 1-10.

3-National Survey conducted by the Health Forum/American Hospital Association

How Stretches Help with Massage

One of the best ways to improve the massage you receive has nothing to do with your choice of massage therapist. Stretching properly, either before or after massage, can aid in the body’s healing and augment the sense of relief that often follows a massage session.


Many of us stretch without being aware of deciding to, like with a first-thing-in-the-morning cat stretch, or following being seated for a long time, such as on a trip. The body’s desire to find such relief, through lengthening its soft tissues, is innate. But even something so simple can be improved with regular practice and use.


There are two primary types of stretching: “static” stretching or “dynamic” stretching. In static stretching, a stretch is held for at least ten seconds, for a small number of repetitions. It is best performed as a cool-down following athletic activity, a hot bath or shower, or a massage. Dynamic stretching, also known as mobilization stretching, is more like a warm-up activity prior to exertion; it involves an increased number of repetitions, and positions held for shorter periods of time. Both forms may be utilized in practices like yoga.


Massage prior to stretching will help you to improve the flow of blood to the stretched areas, which can aid in the relief of soreness from overexertion. Like massage, stretching lengthens and strengthens muscle fibers, whether they have deteriorated from lack of use are from injury or heavy exertion. Stretching also helps other areas of the body, like the digestive system and joints. Stretching also can release endorphins, which improve mood and energy levels. In essence, the good results started by a massage are increased when you also stretch afterward.


A good rule of thumb in determining how much to stretch is to strive for “just right”: not too much that the stretch is painful, awkward or results in a spasm, and not so gentle that there is no result from the position. To achieve a good stretch, begin by stretching a muscle to the first point of tension. From there, slowly ease into the stretch, just past that initial point of tension. Following repetition, it may be possible to go “deeper” into a stretch.


C.B. Y.

Here’s How to Give Your Pet a Massage

In the last post, we explored the whys and wherefores of an increasingly popular trend: pet massage. In this one, we will focus on specific ways you can help your dog or other animal deal with sore muscles, arthritis and similar conditions.

Regular massage, like grooming, can be a great way to pay attention to your pet’s needs. Massage has been proven in studies to lower blood pressure and stress levels for both the giver and recipient, making it an ideal way to spend time with your pet. It also may help them prevent developing issues like stiffness as they age. Pet massage therapists have shared many ideas on how to administer self-care to your pet; we have consolidated the most common techniques below.

To develop a regular massage routine, use the flat portion of your palm to run over your pet’s body. Spend the first few days getting to know their various layers of fat, muscle and bone, so you can become aware of changes over time, as well as of any tight areas. Changes to look for include swelling or tightness; pain or sensitivity; or temperature changes that can indicate inflammation. This information can prove to be useful to others who work with your pet, like their vet or groomer. This “mini massage” can be performed daily if desired.

On occasions like the Fourth of July, or when the gardeners make a racket at an unexpected time, or when a nail trim is imminent, an anxious pet can benefit from massage techniques – consider it an upgraded form of standard petting. Using the palm of your hand, start at the head or neck area, then move back along the sides of the spine (never directly on it) and down the tail or toward the tail area, using pressure. If the pet seems to be enjoying itself, try applying more pressure to see they like it. Perform several sweeps on each side of the spine. End the “massage session” by placing one hand at the base of your pet’s head and the other on the top of the pelvis area (above the back of the hips). Some veterinarians say that these trigger points aid the pet’s body in relaxing.

For older pets in particular, arthritis and stiffness can be especially painful following exertion. To help pets with sore joints, try lightly rubbing the area near the joint, then use a very gentle compression using your hand on the area. Press and release gently in order to increase blood flow to the area and aid the tension of the muscles and tendons. Remember: for more severe issues, a veterinarian is essential; self-care should never substitute for a professional diagnosis and treatment.

For especially athletic dogs, a pre-“workout” massage can help their muscles warm up before running, hiking or a frenetic fetch session. Begin with the relaxation technique above, then continue with a brisk rub in their muscle areas using the heel of your hand, in a method similar to kneading dough. Finish with another petting session.


Does Your Pet Need Massage?

You love, cherish and spoil your pet. But do you give them massage?

Along with the glut of luxury pet products and services on the market (everything from a $26,800 Louis Vuitton dog carrier to $100,000 “pet weddings”), pet massage has been viewed by many as a clear example of extravagance.


But particularly for animals suffering from muscle soreness, arthritis, athletic injuries and other ailments, massage can be a simple way to help heal pets and bond with them. “They relieve my stress – why shouldn’t I relieve theirs?” is a common refrain.


Pet massage is offered by some massage therapists and veterinary offices, but it also can be practiced by pet owners, provided they take simple precautions and educate themselves.


Like traditional massage, pet massage offers a variety of benefits including supporting joint and muscle health, stimulating circulation, and minimizing the restrictions caused by scar tissue and knots.


The movement started with Equissage, a program which has trained and certified more than 10,000 professional equine therapists who work with equestrian teams and centers around the world. The positive effects of massage have been well documented with horses, and the theory holds that these benefits can be experienced by any larger pet.


Certification is offered in Canine Sports Massage Therapy, for those who are interested, although no state currently regulates canine massage therapists. The program takes the procedures and techniques from equine massage and applies them to the dog’s physique. A background in massage therapy is preferred, but not required, to pursue a certificate in canine massage therapy, as the basics of massage are taught as a part of the program; more desirable traits include a love of animals, empathy, and a desire to alleviate suffering.


Dogs currently or formerly involved in competition, like Greyhounds or Huskies, are most likely to be the recipient of canine massage, as are those involved in law enforcement or as seeing-eye or companion dogs. Aging animals also are good candidates.

Learning to become a dog massage therapist includes learning the physiology of the animal as well as dog handling skills, before beginning to learn massage techniques and strokes. The therapy is transferable to other companion animals, like cats, upon further studying of the feline muscle system; what’s good for the Pekingese may not be good for the Persian.

For a more good introduction to the art, consider Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt’s Canine Massage: A Complete Reference Manual, available on Amazon.


The Proven Medicinal Benefits of Massage

If you were to ask a random person on the street 10 years ago what they thought of massage, they might have said it’s a luxury, or a way to get pampered that doesn’t afford long-lasting change.


But this mindset is slowly changing, as new studies have established massage’s health benefits. While scientific evidence is still limited, numerous studies have come out that identify a variety of health benefits.


Research has found that massage therapy has boosted the immune function, as well as lowering the heart rate and blood pressure, of women with breast cancer, increased grip strength in those with carpal tunnel syndrome, and even improved lung function in children afflicted with asthma.


Similarly, it was thought to help premature babies gain weight. Muscles also are found to rebound back to health faster if they receive massage following being exercised to exhaustion; mitochondria (the cell’s energy provider) production is increased, while inflammatory proteins are decreased.


For osteoarthritis sufferers in particular, the benefits of massage have been well established; a 2006 study found that massage greatly relieved their symptoms, including pain, stiffness and range of motion. Those with advanced cancer in hospice care found that massage both relieved pain and improved their moods.


In 2007, the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society went so far as to include massage as one of their recommendations for treating low back pain. To date, two states have required insurance companies to cover massage therapy: Washington and Florida. Other states are looking into adding the requirement.


How specifically does massage work? Definitive answers are still being sought, but some studies have found decreased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and cytokine proteins (related to allergies and inflammation) in the blood following massage. White blood cells, however, saw a boost; they are responsible for fighting off infection. It also found that arginine-vasopressin (a hormone related to stress and aggression) levels decreased in large amounts. Other theories suggest that the physical stimulation of massage may block pain signals meant to reach the brain.


Along with many other studies, massage currently is being examined to see how it benefits those with conditions sickle cell anemia, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression due to advanced AIDS; it also may prove to be valuable to sexual abuse victims.



Fire and Ice: How Temperature Augments Massage

It’s an age-old question to which everyone seems to have an answer: “Should I use ice or heat to help me with this injury?


When a part of the body is injured, the body produces what we know as inflammation–the body’s natural way of protecting and healing the injured tissue. The body isn’t concerned with whether this therapy will “hurt” or work quickly–it simply seeks to protect itself from both new (or “acute”) injuries or older, recurring (“chronic”) injuries.


Heat and ice produce two different effects when used, and thusly have different applications when it comes to inflammation and injury repair.


Cryotherapy, or the use of ice, is used to ward off inflammation if it hasn’t happened yet, or decrease it if it has. This also serves to reduce pain. When you use an ice pack or other form of cold therapy, it causes the small blood vessels in the area to constrict and therefore reduce blood flow, which decreases the rate of inflammation. This helps to reduce the pain and swelling in situations like ankle sprain, a case in which it usually is important to the patient that they be able to preserve their mobility.


When we tear a ligament, tendon or other aspect of a muscle, the body responds by sending masses of blood (and other compounds that help fight the injury) to the area. It has been well documented that it is critical during the first 48 hours of such an injury to apply cryotherapy to the area, as it helps preserve range of motion and allows the body to recover faster. Try applying ice for 15- to 20-minute periods, six to eight times a day, for the first two days. (Don’t worry; this won’t “stop” the body from being able to deliver what the injury needs.)


If you have pain due to chronic overuse, like carpal tunnel syndrome, ice may also help with inflammation in such situations; just be sure to ice following the activity, not before it.


Heat therapy causes the opposite effect: vasodilation, or opening up the blood vessels more. This is perfect for situations in which we want to increase blood flow to an area–for example, before a sporting event or before a situation in which a chronically overused area will be used again. It also can be used to relieve pain, as in hot tub use.



From Mueslix to Massage: The Kellogg Story

One of the fathers of modern massage, John Harvey Kellogg, is best known today as a cereal magnate.
Born shortly before the Civil War, Kellogg spent his life in Michigan and died in 1943 at the age of 91. Although he and his wife of 67 years, Ella, did not have any of their own biological children, they fostered 42 of them and legally adopted seven.

Trained as a medical doctor, Kellogg ran a famous sanitarium that focused on vegetarianism, exercise, and abstinence from smoking and drinking. Kellogg invented the word “sanitarium,” and defined it as a place where people learn to stay well. He was one of the first famous American advocates for vegetarianism, and inventor of a cereal empire that still bears his name (and jumpstarted the health food industry).

He spent much of his life at the famous Battle Creek Sanitarium, where he served as the chief medical officer; the health facility was owned and operated by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which still espouses this focus on health today.

Along with activities like regular walks, breathing exercises, hydrotherapy and sunbathing, clients of the sanitarium were encouraged to receive regular massage; Kellogg also wrote a textbook, The Art of Massage, that served to standardize and categorize techniques and “eliminate the unnecessary and inefficient, and to develop and perfect those methods capable of securing most definite and prompt results,” as he wrote.

Kellogg maintained that in order to be an effective massage therapist, one must fully understand anatomy and physiology, particularly of the nervous system. Rather than simply theorize, Kellogg became an avid researcher and practitioner, trying out various methods at the sanitarium in order to determine their efficacy.

He also sought to educate the public on how to avoid falling prey to “snake oil salesmen,” and trained in Europe with the best massage practitioners he could find, along with reading all the material on the topic that he could find from experts like Dowse, Graham, Ling, Murrell, Reibmayr, Schreiber and Tibbitts.

Kellogg was a longtime, albeit controversial, member of the Adventist Church, which still espouses their focus on health today. He was “disfellowshipped” from the church following publication of a book called “The Living Temple,” which contained what were considered to be “pantheistic” remarks, in which he stated that the spirit of God can be found in everything, including plant life.

After more than 65 years at the sanitarium, the Great Depression forced Kellogg and the Adventists to close its doors, and Kellogg opened another facility in Florida that never saw its predecessor’s fame.


Massage Moves into the Modern Era

In the last few posts, we focused on the ancient beginnings of massage, including the efforts by Hippocrates to make it an accepted and common element of medical practice.


Following the Western Dark Ages, Middle Ages and Renaissance, massage once again began moving toward greater acceptance around the world. In 1776, two French missionaries translated what is called the Inner Canon of Huangdi, an ancient Chinese medical text that some liken to Hippocrates’ own works. The work contained listings and descriptions of massage techniques that, when made available to European audiences, quickly became popular and were incorporated throughout the region. The Inner Canon also listed techniques such as acupressure, acupuncture and tai chi, which also have become popular in the West.


Three years later, another Frenchman, Pierre-Martial Cibot, released a similar listing of medical gymnastic techniques; these were used by Taoist priests.


The year 1776 also saw the birth of one Pehr Henrik Ling of Sweden, who went on to found the Royal Gymnastic Central Institute in Stockholm. Although Ling is commonly believed to be the inventor of Swedish massage, he in fact invented what he referred to as the “Swedish Movement Cure,” with the help of a Chinese expert in Tui na massage, which has been used for millennia by Kung Fu masters.


Tui na introduced the main elements of what eventually became known as “Swedish massage,” which were given French names: effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement and vibration. Tui na is believed to spread chi, or energy, throughout the body.


Ling also was believed to have read the French texts about Chinese medicine.


In 1878, the famed Johan Georg Metzger took Ling’s techniques and created the “Swedish massage system,” although he himself was Dutch. This may be where the misattribution to Ling’s program initiated.


The passion for massage also made its way to the United States. Toward the end of the 19th century, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of cereal fame) went so far as to publish a book about proper massage technique, utilizing the experiences he gained from operating the Battle Creek Sanitarium. We will learn more about Kellogg in the next newsletter.



Hippocrates and Massage

In the previous post, we focused on several areas of the ancient world that used massage in their medical practicum. One of massage’s earliest and most influential exponents was the famous doctor Hippocrates; in this one, we will focus on his beliefs and teachings.

A great of ancient medicine, Hippocrates of Cos lived in Greece about four centuries before the birth of Jesus, and is referred to as the founder of modern health care. Doctors now take the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” in recognition of his teachings and influence.

In addition to coming up with his own methodology and practices, Hippocrates is known for having synthesized all of the medical knowledge available in his day into a single Corpus (or body of work) for which physicians could refer.

Hippocrates strongly supported the belief that “the physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing,” as he wrote. Skill in massage, he believed, came not from book learning but through extensive practice.

Hippocrates believed that massage had two primary uses: strengthening or relaxing muscles. Each goal had its own set of prescribed methods. Exercise was seen as having the same goals, so massage and exercise were intricately linked in Ancient Greece.

In the time of Hippocrates, mystics and other quack physicians believed that a massage practitioner should start at the center of the body and push negative energy away. Hippocrates reversed this, telling practitioners instead to move towards the heart, in order to help the circulatory system in doing its job.

By doing so, Hippocrates took massage away from being seen as a superstitious or “magical” practice and gave it a grounding in science.

Hippocrates had four major teachings about massage:  That energetic massage and friction would cause firming (as well as warm up cold muscles), gentle massage would release and relax the muscles (creating a cooling effect), frequent massage would “lighten” or thin down the body, and that a moderate amount of massage would increase the bulk of the body.

Thus, the style and frequency of massage could be customized for each recipient based on their own needs and preferences.