Self-Massage Tips from NWHSU featured by Forbes
How Massage Therapy Enhances Work Performance And Career Success
By Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. for Forbes
If you’re like many employees working from home, you might ask your spouse, partner or another family member for a massage while you’re working. But if you’ve never had a professional massage, it’s not the same. In most cases when we tell licensed massage therapists where the discomfort resides, they can recommend the appropriate type of massage and find the tender spots in your body right away.
While massage therapy was once controversial, science-backed studies have shown it has benefits for employees to offset job stress. Job stress can result in low morale, increased anxiety and depression, as well as other health-related concerns—especially with the mental health consequences of the pandemic. These negative consequences can lead to absenteeism and impaired work engagement and productivity. The relief from a licensed massage therapist soothes aches and pains and calms the mind and body before, during or after a hectic work schedule and has shown to assuage the negative consequences of job stress.
Work-Site Massage Therapy
Workplace massage could be an antidote during the pandemic to offset social isolation, Zoom fatigue, increased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress and burnout. Only a handful of studies have systematically examined the effectiveness of massage therapy at work, but the ones that have show promising results. Several older studies show work site massage therapy reduces blood pressure, urinary and salivary cortisol levels, work stress and raises employee productivity and job satisfaction.
Although there are many types of massage, chair massage—a fully clothed massage performed in a chair especially designed for massage—is the most common type in the workplace or other public settings. A study conducted at the Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida, found that work site chair massage helped reduce anxiety. The study showed an improvement in brain performance and found that 15 minutes of chair massage was more effective than a 15-minute break to reduce anxiety. Employees receiving chair massage also had an increase in speed and accuracy in completing math equations. The brain’s ability to function more effectively combined with a decrease in anxiety and increase in feelings of contentment and well-being can result in improved job performance.
Massage at work also can help improve general feelings of contentment and health. A study on work-site acupressure and seated massage improved overall feelings of well-being among workers. Employees receiving the massage reported feeling an increase in general well-being, less depression and anxiety symptoms, an increased ability to control their emotions and fewer sleep disturbances. Overall, the study found that employees receiving massage maintained their job satisfaction whereas those not receiving massage had a decrease in job satisfaction.
Self-Massage: Let Your Fingers Do The Walking
If getting a professional massage isn’t in the cards for you, there are a number of massage techniques from Northwestern Health Sciences University that you can try on yourself at your desk to remove the stress of the workday:
- Head: Using your fingertips, gently massage the area around your temples, forehead and ears. Press your thumbs lightly into the area at the base of your skull.
- Scalp: Place your thumbs behind your ears while spreading your fingers on top of your head. Move your scalp back and forth slightly by making circles with your fingertips for 15 to 20 seconds.
- Eyes: Close your eyes and place your ring fingers directly under your eyebrows near the bridge of your nose. Slowly increase the pressure for five or 10 seconds, then gently release. Repeat two or three times.
- Sinuses: Place your fingertips at the bridge of your nose. Slowly slide your fingers down your nose and across the top of your cheekbones to the outside of your eyes.
- Neck: Using both of your thumbs, find the indentation where your neck meets your shoulders. Gently press your thumbs into the indentation and rub slowly.
- Shoulders: Reach one arm across the front of your body to your opposite shoulder. Using a circular motion, press firmly on the muscle above your shoulder blade and lean your head back. Repeat on the other side.
What Companies Can Do
The first solution for many employees suffering from depression is often medication or psychotherapy in which they consult with a trained mental health professional to talk. While these are valid options, according to the American Massage Therapy Association, the effect of massage therapy on anxiety and depression is virtually the same as those routinely found in the research studies of psychotherapy for people with the same conditions. Studies show that regular massages can improve mood and reset circadian rhythms, leading to improved mood, better sleep and more energy.
People are beginning to understand a combination of treatment options can be beneficial to employee mental health, and massage therapy is showing great promise in alleviating depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be an important part of an integrative approach to health and wellness. And 88% of people surveyed endorse the benefits of massage therapy for relieving pain to managing cancer symptoms and reducing depression. Some large companies such as Boeing and Google offer massage to their employees as part of their wellness programs. And whether employees work remotely or toil at the office, seated massage can be a great option for reducing stress and anxiety, according to research. To date, the science on work site massage supports the practice of more companies offering workplace-based massage as part of a comprehensive stress reduction and wellness health strategy.