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Published on December 10, 2019

lower view of womans leg getting massage

Why Massage Therapy Can Holistically Help You

Compare your health to your car for a minute. You take care of that vehicle – get the oil changed, replace old tires before it starts snowing – because you don’t want to replace the engine or end up in an icy ditch.

You might want to apply the same approach and take care of yourself.

Massage therapy is an aspect of self-care that is too often masked in misconceptions and myths. Licensed massage therapists Karen Jelsma, LMT, who provides massage therapy services at Avera Sacred Heart Wellness Center, and Sarah Johnson, LMT, who works at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital in Aberdeen, offer these clarifications and insights on the rewarding therapy they provide through massage.

It’s a Health Benefit, Not a Luxury

The way massage therapy can loosen muscles, relieve stress and make a person happier should show it’s a holistic method of care – not just a treat or pampering. “Your body works hard and massage therapy is a good way to take care of it,” said Jelsma. “I have had so many skeptics come in and explain where they have pain, and I can work on those areas. That pain will go away. I can feel what’s going on with them.”

It’s Widely Recommended

Keeping with the nature of the therapy, it makes sense that physical therapists, physicians and chiropractors often encourage their patients or clients to explore massage. “Therapists, providers and chiropractors often refer patients to massage therapy,” said Johnson. “Relieving stress is important for everyone, from high-school football players to surgeons and other professionals.”

Awkwardness (at first) is Normal

It can take time to relax when a first-timer comes for massage. “Many people are uncertain about undressing or having someone touch them,” said Jelsma. “That’s natural to feel, and we do our best to explain you can undress in private and then lie down with the sheet covering you. When we begin, we make sure the person is comfortable. That skin-to-skin contact makes a big difference.”

While more women than men make massage therapy appointments, both therapists said that’s changing as more men realize the benefits.

You’re the Boss

From mild forms of massage such as Swedish to more robust approaches, like deep-tissue massage, the therapy methods are something the pros know – and will use as you direct. “I have some clients that come in every two weeks for cupping massage, where we use large suction cups to move stagnant blood, as well as hot stone treatments,” said Jelsma. “It’s always custom work – if the pressure is too much, I reduce it. If they need more compression, I provide that. Our goal is to provide relief and comfort – let your therapist know what is best for you.”

It Improves Mobility

When mobility improves due to massage therapy, keeping up with it and having regular appointments can be a difference-maker. In the car metaphor – we all know new tires are less expensive than a tow truck and body repairs. “So many athletic trainers use massage to help with injuries,” said Johnson, and it can help non-athletes as well. “When you have less stress, you can move more easily and you feel so good.”

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