What was the first thing you did the last time you hit your funny bone, stubbed your toe or got a charley horse? You likely began rubbing the area immediately without thinking. It is a natural response to rub where there is pain, just as it is natural for parents to rub their child when they hurt themselves and when mothers rub and rock their babies when they cry.

This natural reaction is a healing art that has been documented as far back to 1800 BC in Chinese medical texts. Rubbing was considered a necessity by Hippocrates (460 to 380 BC), known as the “father of medicine.” His memoirs state, “The physician must be experienced in many things but assuredly also in rubbing. … For rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose and loosen a joint that is too rigid. … Rubbing can bind and loosen; can make flesh (referring to the ability to tone muscle tissue) and cause parts to waste (soften and relax).”

Massage therapy — which comes from the Arabic root “mass’h,” meaning to touch, knead or squeeze — has taken that very basic principle and evolved it into a science and viable form of medical treatment. However, many regard it as an extravagant luxury, and they couldn’t be farther from the truth.

During massage, the manual assistance of the therapist encourages blood flow, sending fresh oxygen and nutrients to the body while promoting the removal of waste products and toxins. Also, your body’s relaxed state during and after the massage lowers your heart rate.

Heather Miller, a licensed massage therapist at Mind Your Body, considers massage as preventative maintenance for your body. Massage helps to improve athletic performance via an increase in your range of motion and improved flexibility. You will also experience shorter recovery time after exercise, be less prone to injury and will heal more quickly should you be injured.

The emotional advantages of massage include reducing stress, tension and anxiety, often leading to improved concentration.

Miller said, “It’s crucial for us to take care of our bodies to stay happy and healthy and what better way to do that than through massage therapy.”

Larissa King, also a licensed massage therapist at Mind Your Body, agrees.

“From elevated stress levels to old sports injuries, massage promotes the natural healing process within the body,” she said. “This therapeutic tool can benefit people at any age and can encourage optimal health.”

Regular massage therapy is much more than a mere luxury; it is a natural healing process that should be considered an investment — an investment in your health.

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