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The Benefits of Massaging Your Family

by Becky Jackson

Much has been written on the healing power of touch. New research continually reveals the benefits of infant massage, babywearing, and similar contact parenting methods. It seems evident that we technologically advanced humans have "lost touch" with some of our natural means of bonding and promoting good health.

Massage is a healing art that belongs not only in spas and natural health centers, but in our homes. The touch of a woman's hands is as much a part of nurturing a family as mothering, cooking, and cleaning.

The caress, the lightest form of massage, often comes naturally to a mother. She strokes the nursing infant's head, the cheek of an upset child, or the hand of her husband without conscious thought or purpose. These gentle caresses from one loved one to another have the potential to soothe, uplift, and enhance closeness without a word.

When the woman of the house regularly massages her children and husband, she is providing them with important physical and psychological benefits as well. Muscles relax, endorphin levels rise, and stress hormones are lowered. An overall sense of peace and well-being results in much the same way that we feel after exercise. With a clear head and relaxed body, children and spouse have more energy, think more clearly, and are less irritable.

One of the most common reasons for massage is to relieve sore muscles. Usually ignored, these sore, tight muscles can occur frequently and for any number of reasons, including an awkward sleeping position, a strenuous workout, a stressful day, or even (as in my oldest child's case) tense neck and shoulder muscles from playing a musical instrument. Instead of taking ibuprofen, buying a tube of muscle relaxer cream, or paying a masseuse, family members of massaging mothers can receive the free, natural healing that's right at her fingertips.

Perhaps the best reason to massage your family is as an expression of love. When mom cares enough about how her loved ones feel to freely expend her time and energy on their well-being, one can't help but feel very loved and cared for.

Need some ideas for massage techniques on older children? Try "planting a garden." Make up movements to fit the story with plowing, planting seeds, hoeing, watering, digging potatoes, and sprouts starting to grow. Kids really enjoy this and like to make up their own variations, digging up seashells on the beach, etc. When you're short on time and energy, a quick, effective technique is to massage in circles a couple of inches apart down each side of the backbone.

So many homemaking skills have been lost or professionalized and, therefore, depersonalized. We shouldn't let nurturing touch be one of them. Moms may have to relearn and practice this hidden art in order to make it feel natural again, but any husband or child will tell you it's worth your effort.

This article was first published on Suite101.com on November 1, 2001, and is reprinted with permission from the author.
Copyright 2002 by Becky Jackson


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