by Mandy Francis
The popularity of massage continues to rise as studies confirm the value of massage for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. The Mayo Clinic even recently opened a spa to offer massage and acupuncture. Nita Keesler, massage therapist, talks about the importance of massage for men.
In your practice, what kinds of issues do you see that are specific to men? Typically, male clients have tight shoulders, low back/hips and hamstrings. Sciatic pain, rotator cuff issues and carpal tunnel syndrome also tend to be common. Restricted movement can affect posture, and sitting can exacerbate pain, which is especially problematic if someone works at a computer or drives for a living.
Weight training and running are popular forms of exercise for many guys. How does that impact their flexibility, and how can massage help support them in those practices? Massage therapy is very beneficial to men that lift weights, run or participate in other cardiovascular exercise because it prevents and alleviates restrictions in the muscles. “Restrictions” can originate from various injuries, improper posture or repetitive motions, as in the case of weightlifting. Massage also helps to prevent what’s called delayed onset muscle soreness, so the body can heal faster with massage than with rest alone.
What benefits can men expect from greater flexibility? Men can gain improved range of motion and better posture, which affect health on many levels, including digestion, mood and, of course, appearance. Massage helps make the muscles more supple by helping to oxygenate with fresh blood. Think of tight muscles as a kink in a hose—when tight, the muscles can entrap blood vessels and nerves, creating pain. Massage helps to alleviate that. Massage combined with assisted stretching, whether it is sports stretching or Thai massage—which is what I incorporate into my practice—is even more beneficial. When someone else is stretching our bodies, we are able to stretch a bit further because our muscles are relaxed. With Thai massage we are also being massaged while being stretched, so the results are even more profound.
How many sessions do men need to attend before experiencing a noticeable difference? Everyone is unique. Results will depend on how long they have had their physical issues, whether they have any scar tissue, the amount of stress they typically have and their compliance to self-care, particularly stretching and body awareness. But many have felt relief in one to two sessions. With weekly or biweekly sessions, many have had significant results within six to 10 sessions and continue with monthly or bimonthly maintenance.
What else do you want people to know? Our bodies are meant to move in several planes of movement. Many exercises, including walking, running, cycling and the elliptical, have us in only one repetitive plane of movement. These are all great ways to work out, but it is imperative to supplement with other modalities such as weight training, which by design, if done correctly, requires us to use our muscles in a balanced way. Stretching is the most important thing we can do to help prevent injuries. Massage and assisted stretching are exceptional in that they help us get to that place of flexibility so that we are able to more easily do it on our own.
Also important is an understanding of “how and why” our bodies have reached their current states. I offer posture and flexibility workshops for individuals and for workplaces to help bring this understanding in a simple way, along with techniques that participants can use throughout their busy day.
Nita Keesler is a licensed and board-certified massage and bodywork therapist with over 20 years of experience. For more information, call 267-980-1727, email iNitaUnwind@gmail.com or visit Back-In-Balance.MassageTherapy.com. Check for discount package pricing, current specials and new client specials.