5/21/2013


Summer is the season of swimming, tennis, and being outdoors. But along with summer sports, the season brings sprained ankles, pulled muscles and shin splints. This summer, and all year round, athletes of all levels are turning to massage therapy to combat these mishaps.

Once considered an alternative medicine, massage has staked its claim to the mainstream. Americans make about 114 million visits to massage therapists each year, and spend about $6 billion total. Moreover, the American Massage Therapy Association reports that 2 million more people sought out massage therapy in 2005 than in 2004.

Robin Helton, massage therapy department chairperson instructor at Everest College, in Burr Ridge, Ill., says that the massage industry's huge growth is about more than just our nation's need for relaxation. "Medical professionals now recognize the benefits of massage, not only in alleviating certain medical conditions, but also as a form of preventative medicine, and a key to overall well-being."

Massage Offers a Range of Benefits for Even Casual Exercisers

Exercise is one area where massage therapy is fast making an impact. Professional athletes cite massage as vital to their performance, and even casual exercisers have begun incorporating it into their weekly workout routine.

Helton points out that while any type of exercise can take its toll on the body, massage can help alleviate many exercise-related problems. "Massage therapy can help care for the wear-and-tear and minor injuries caused by exercise," Helton states. In fact, Helton says that not just exercisers, but anyone who does strenuous activities could benefit from a massage, including parents with small children, gardeners or physical laborers.

The Many Benefits of Massage for Exercisers

In addition to simply relaxing tired bodies, massage has numerous advantages that can directly benefit active people, including:

* Improving circulation
* Reducing recovery time between workouts
* Increasing flexibility and range of motion
* Helping prevent future injuries
* Easing discomfort in trouble spots

Leroy Tavares, Jr., education chairperson and licensed massage therapist at Everest Institute in DeKalb, Ga., explains that improving circulation can help build muscle. "Massage helps increase the flow of vital nutrients which are necessary for building muscle."

Massage can also help you recover faster from workouts by removing waste products that exercise creates, such as lactic and carbonic acid. Everest Institute's Tavares, who is also a certified personal trainer and former head coach for the American Diabetes Association marathon team explains, "It is the build up of lactic acid that makes you sore and massage helps remove those waste products faster, which can shorten time off between workouts."

Massage can also improve flexibility and range of motion, which can help prevent future injuries. "Massage relaxes the muscles and stretches connective tissue, which can actually help prevent future injuries caused by tight muscles and joints," says Tavares.

Everyone has their own trouble spot -- sometimes these trouble spots are the result of past injuries, while other times they are just due to years of wear-and-tear. "A trained massage therapist can focus on your unique trouble spots, to ensure they give you as little trouble as possible," says Tavares.

Massage Makes An Attractive Career Option

Because massage is being used in a growing number of settings, it is expected to remain in high demand over the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects demand for massage therapists to grow by 23.6 percent over the coming years and "Money Magazine's" lists massage therapists among its Top 20 careers.

"In the past, when you said massage therapist, people would think of spas, candle-lit rooms and soft music, but now people are realizing that a massage career can open so many doors -- whether you want to pursue the healthcare angle, or the athletics angle, it offers so much," says Tavares.  

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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