Mixing Massage With Medicine

By Julia Boyle


As an increasing number of clinical research studies show the many health benefits of massage, its value as a therapeutic tool in the medical community is growing rapidly. In fact, a recent survey found that 14 of 18 major HMOs and insurance providers offer at least some coverage of alternative therapies, including massage.


Since 1982, the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami in Florida has researched the effects of massage therapy on people of all ages. Their research team, comprised of medical experts from top universities has found massage therapy alleviates depression symptoms, reduces pain and stress hormones, and improves immune function.

While massage therapy is consistently well-known for improving circulation, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, assisting lymphatic function, and relaxing muscles, TRI also found positive results in conditions such as arthritis, asthma, breast cancer, and Parkinson's disease, among others.

"Massage, in general, stimulates pressure receptors, which in turn stimulates vagal activity—a slowing down of heart rate and blood pressure. Stress hormones kill immune cells, but this response releases those hormones, allowing immune cells to thrive," says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of TRI.

Betsey Gilbert, certified massage therapist at University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Medicine, has also witnessed improvements in her clients who suffer from chronic pain. "I have treated a lot of people who have arthritic pain and they do have relief," she says.

New Massage Territory
Erickson joins the greater medical community in recognizing massage therapy's health benefits. The nationwide company provides massage services at many of its communities as part of its health initiative, Erickson HealthSM

Cedar Crest will be adding two massage treatment rooms as part of the day spa at its newest clubhouse, Woodland Commons. "The new spa will offer massage, facials, manicures, pedicures, and a full-service hair salon," says Linda Kilman, salon manager at Cedar Crest.

Kilman also expresses that excitement is beginning to buzz around the community about the clubhouse and spa. "Everyone is looking forward to it," says Paula Longo, who is experienced with the benefits of healing touch. "To me, Cedar Crest is the Shangri-La of retirement. Add a day spa where we can get massages, facials, and things that will help us feel great, and it's even better."

Longo admits to enjoying several facials and massages throughout her life. Since massages range in price from $50 for a half hour to $75 for a full hour, and some treatments may be covered by insurance, people need not think of massage as "pampering"—they can simply enjoy its therapeutic health benefits.

As the new day spa is not yet open, Kilman is unsure of how willing her clients will be to receive a full-body massage. But both Field and Gilbert agree that they will realize its therapeutic and medicinal benefits. "People somewhat hesitate until they experience how good it feels," Field says.