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Health Column: The healing qualities of massage therapy

If you’re suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, stress-related insomnia or anxiety, you might want to consider treating yourself to a massage. 

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, massage therapy — while not a replacement for regular medical care — may help treat the aforementioned conditions.

And local masseuses agree that nearly anyone, no matter their health concerns, can benefit from the occasional kneading.

“Touch was the first thing [human beings] ever did,” said Alyce Giorgi, a licensed massage therapist with a Southold practice. “We didn’t know anything, we couldn’t even speak. But we touched each other — and it’s the oldest form of healing on the planet.”

Elyse Ray, a licensed massage therapist who practices in Riverhead, said massage can relieve a plethora of ailments because the manipulative technique helps increase blood flow to muscles, which “hold the whole body together.”

“It’s the blood in the muscle that provides the healing,” she said.

According to a 2012 study in Science Translational Medicine, just 10 minutes of Swedish-style massage can reduce signs of inflammation following exercise, helping your muscles recover.

And while conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia can never be “healed” by massage therapy, that form of alternative medicine might help keep symptoms at bay, said Ms. Ray.

“Arthritis will make joints want to be stiff,” she said. “Massage helps keep that motion going.”

Added Ms. Giorgi, “One thing I love about massage is that we’re just facilitating and your body is doing all the work. And if you give your body a push in the right direction, it wants to help itself.”

Massage therapy can also help calm overly stimulated nerves, Ms. Ray said.

“For somebody who has anxiety or panic attacks, massage can help reset those nerve impulses,” she said.

Insomnia sufferers, Ms. Giorgi said, can also find relief through the occasional massage.

“People tell me they sleep better,” she said.

If you’re thinking about getting a massage, keep in mind that the benefits, while cumulative, are temporary. For best results, said Diane Carlson, owner of Blue Sage Spa in Mattituck, try to make them a regular occurrence.

“For most people, it would be a good thing to consider massage a part of your health routine,” she said.

Have a health column idea for Rachel Young? Email her at [email protected].