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Pampering with Benefits

Massage therapy can provide relief from many health issues.

Story by Robyn Passante + Photography by Mark Staff

The goal of getting healthier can include seemingly unpleasant tasks like exercising regularly, and eating more veggies and fewer sweets. But there is another way to help your overall health that isn’t unpleasant at all. In fact, it could even feel like a reward for managing the first two.

Get a weekly massage.

“People used to think massage was a luxury. It’s not,” says Esmeralda Flores, co-owner and massage therapist at Esmeralda’s Massage Therapy & Pilates Center on Hilton Head. “If everybody would have a massage on a regular basis, I don’t think people would have stress or pains at all – if you don’t have medical issues, of course.”

While the massage has long been thought of as merely a pampering experience or a once-in-a-blue-moon splurge, experts in the health and wellness field say it is actually a useful tool with a plethora of health-related benefits beyond making you feel royally relaxed.

It eases anxiety and depression. Chronic pain – which sometimes people become so used to they barely recognize it – stresses the body and mind. “So when you get release in your muscles through massage, and your pain is gone, your stress is gone,” Flores says. “Through the massage we release tension, we release depression, even emotions. It’s a mind and body combination.”

It improves sleep. A relaxed body is much more apt to enjoy a restful night’s sleep. “When you’re tight or in pain when you go to sleep, you wake up tired,” Flores says. “And when you wake up tired, you don’t feel like doing anything.”

It can help your cardiovascular health. A growing body of research points to massage’s heart-healthy benefits because it can lower the blood pressure of massage patients.

It boosts immunity. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, more research is showing a link between regular massage and a boosted immune system. One study noted a rise in white blood cells by those getting massages. Flores says massage also assists the lymphatic system in flushing toxins from the body. “That’s why some people get dizzy after a massage,” she says. “It’s because there are toxins being released.”

For those interested in giving massage a try, Flores recommends making an appointment with an experienced practitioner who can assess the specific kind of massage your mind and body needs. “As a therapist I can see somebody come into my studio and see what the person comes with,” she says. “I see the way they walk; I talk to them about what their problem is or how active they are.”

There are several different types of massage, from deep tissue sports massage for an athlete to warm bamboo therapy that can decrease modern-day stress and provide relief from many physical and emotional problems. But all good massages should attend to the entire body.

“You have to have a full body massage. Say you have a problem like a high arch in your foot. That can cause a problem all the way to the neck,” Flores says. “The body is like a domino – one piece links to the other piece. So you have to relieve the whole body.”

Massage 101

Massage therapist Esmeralda Flores says there’s a proper way to prep for a massage.

Massage Prep Tips

[1] Eat a light, healthy breakfast/lunch beforehand.

[2] Be well hydrated.

[3] Don’t drink alcohol before the massage. “It will make your blood pressure too high.”

Post-Massage Tips

[1] Drink plenty of water. “It takes 24 to 36 hours for the toxins released through massage to be flushed from your system.”

[2] Rest and allow the stress-relieving relaxation techniques to take their full effect.

[3] Make an appointment for your next massage!