What Is Massage Therapy?
Massage is one of the oldest, simplest forms of therapy and is a system of stroking, pressing and kneading different areas of the body to relieve pain, relax, stimulate, and tone the body.
Massage therapy is the manipulation of soft tissues such as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to help the body heal itself. Massage produces the general beneficial effects of relaxing muscular tension, stimulating blood circulation and improving the tone and strength of the skin and muscles.
Understanding the Pain Cycle
When a muscle is tight for too long it becomes inflamed. It becomes inflamed because blood flow is restricted caused by the tension and tightness in the muscle. The impeded blood flow causes lactic acid and cellular waste to accumulate in the muscle irritating the nerve cells and causing pain.
All muscles have a tone setting meaning that some muscles are tighter than others. When we have an injury or trauma to the body the muscles around the area can have an elevated tone for years. These are areas that hold the most tension.
Nerve cells are our pain messengers and they must reach a threshold before a signal is sent. What does that mean? It means that a muscle can be a little tight without sending a pain signal. It is only when the muscle tension increases more that the nerves are pushed over their threshold sending a pain signal to the brain by way of the spinal cord.
How does stress and anxiety figure into the equation? When we experience stress and anxiety, our sympathetic nervous system causes the muscles to tighten. Increased stress, increases the tone. The opposite is also true. When we decrease our stress by exercising breathing techniques, talking back to the “bully in our brain” or engaging in a pleasurable activity, we don’t notice pain and discomfort as much. This is why muscle pain comes and goes. We call this the Mind/Body connection.
Benefits of Massage
According to Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals the Benefits of Massage include:
- Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.
- Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers and shorten maternity hospital stays.
- Ease medication dependence.
- Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow-the body’s natural defense system.
- Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
- Help athletes of any level prepare for, and recover from, strenuous workouts.
- Increase joint flexibility.
- Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks.
- Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.
- Reduce postsurgery adhesions and swelling.
- Reduce spasms and cramping.
- Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles.
- Release endorphins-amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkillers.
- Relieve migraine pain.
- Lesson depression and anxiety.
For a complete list of the benefits of massage, please visit the following: