“Would you like a free massage as a holiday present after your haircut, doctor?” the owner of Elizabeth Milan’s salon in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel asked me.
“Would you like a free massage as a holiday present after your haircut, doctor?” the owner of Elizabeth Milan’s salon in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel asked me. It had been a hard day seeing patients, and maybe I looked a trifle haggard. But whatever the reason, being of Scottish heritage, the free part appealed to me. So I said, “Why not?”
Massage as therapy has stood the test of time. It has been used by Chinese, Greek, Roman and Indian civilizations. During a trip to Egypt last year I saw numerous paintings of people practicing massage in the tombs of kings and queens. And Julius Cesar was apparently given daily massage to treat neuralgia.
Many people tend to look on massage as a luxury found only in upscale health clubs. But massage is a great tool, a combination of art and science. It can have a major impact when treating tension, insomnia, head-ache, hypertension, arthritis, acute and chronic pain, and can promote healing in a variety of conditions.
How does it work? Research shows the enormous benefits of hands-on therapy. It fosters a positive emotional reaction to something physical being done to ease whatever ails you. That’s why a massage therapist has so much more to offer psychologically and physically than a doctor who simply hands out prescriptions across a desk.
But there’s more to massage than the touch of well-trained hands. Massage — by manipulating tissues, muscles and tendons — decreases stress hormones; enhances the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers; and, by improving circulation, eases muscle spasm and joint stiffness. Besides all this, it makes you feel good, and how do you weigh that benefit?
A report from The Mayo Clinic claims that massage has reduced anxiety in depressed children. This finding should be sent to every school in this country that believes hyperactive children are best treated by sedating them with drugs.
Years ago when I was hyperactive in school, I was sedated by a good whack on my backside. I don’t believe this has caused me psychological harm. But in retrospect, I would have preferred to be sedated by a relaxing massage.
Mayo Clinic adds that studies show massage results in less pain in patients suffering from fibromyalgia, recent surgery and back pain. And we all know its benefits in sport injuries. In other studies, cancer patients undergoing treatment also reported less anxiety and pain if they had regularly scheduled massage sessions.
I can’t confirm this fact, but I’d bet my last dollar that those with terminal illness would find their days less painful and depressing if massage were part of their treatment.
How did I fare after my treatment? I felt relaxed and ready to take on the world. But I had a problem. There was no mention that the next session would be free. That triggered considerable tension. Unfortunately, I’ll have to pay to find out how much anxiety and insomnia it will cause me.
But I’m sure that if one massage provides so much help, frequent massages would do even more. So in the end this free massage is going to cost me a lot of money. Hopefully I can get my psyche to accept massage, not as an expense item, but as an investment in relaxation and good health in an increasingly tense world where so many problems are related to stress.
Massage is also non-invasive, without any of the side effects of drug therapy. It’s therefore a great way to help decrease the frightening epidemic of “pillitis” in this country. If doctors wrote more prescriptions for massage there would be fewer written for antidepressant drugs.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of Harvard’s great thinkers, was right. He counseled, “If you threw all the pills into the Pacific Ocean, so much the better for mankind, so much the worse for the fish.” I say “amen” to that remark.
Since my column on cold sores, many readers have asked where they can purchase “The InterceptCS Cold Sore Prevention System.” It is available exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart.
And my best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.
Dr. W. Gifford-Jones is actually Dr. Ken Walker, a practicing physician in Toronto who writes many columns at his Bristol Harbour residence.