Why massage is good for your health:
Nearly all the systems in the body are affected by massage, either directly or indirectly.
Here is a guide to how your body can benefit.
Case Studies in the benefits of Massage Therapy
Generally, people use massage for either general relaxation and wellbeing, or to address a specific complaint, such as pain or limited range of motion. Research suggests massage therapy may contribute to both goals. Some of the general benefits of massage therapy may include: Physical relaxation Improved circulation, which nourishes cells and improves waste elimination Relief for tight muscles (knots) and other aches and pains Release of nerve compression (carpel tunnel, sciatica) Greater flexibility and range of motion Enhanced energy and vitality. Some clinical styles may help heal scar tissue as well as tendon, ligament, and muscle tears What specific conditions can massage therapy help? Massage therapy may help the body in many ways. Massage can relax muscle tissue, which may lead to decreased nerve compression, increased joint space, and range of motion. This may lead to reduced pain and improved function. Massage therapy may also improve circulation, which enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells and helps remove waste products. These circulatory effects of massage may have value in the treatment of some inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or edema (an excessive accumulation of fluid in body tissues, which may be reduced using manual lymph drainage). Massage therapy is also thought to induce a relaxation response, which lowers the heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure; boosts the immune system; and generally decreases the physical effects of stress. These effects suggest that massage may be helpful for a wide range of conditions. Some of these are listed below.
Decreases pain and increases functioning in these conditions: Helps treat and manage symptoms or complications of:Other psychological, emotional, and physical benefits:
Carpal tunnel Sciatica Tension headaches Whiplash Scoliosis Torticollis Tendon and muscle tears Thoracic outlet syndrome Varicose veins Pregnancy-related back pain and other discomfort Myofascial pain Sore or overused muscles (prevents and treats) Muscle injury (offers rehabilitation) Gout Rheumatoid arthritis Osteoarthritis Muscular dystrophies Raynaud's Disease Diabetes Hypertension and congestive heart failure Reduces risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases Improved mood Reduced anxiety Lower stress levels Lessening of depression Reduced anger and aggression Improved sleep patterns and decreased sleep disturbance Reduced fatigue Enhances immune system Improves athletic performance and enhances recovery
Massage for Relaxation and Peace
How massage helped Amy relax. Amy is getting married in a few weeks and is feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the planning and upcoming events. Amys's best friend gives her a gift certificate for a 60-minute massage at Northern Colorado Massage to help her relax and reduce her stress. Amy has had clinical massages before that focused on reducing knots in her shoulders and neck. However, during this massage, Amy states that she primarily needs some time to recharge, get centered, rejuvenate, refresh, and float away. Amy chooses the music and type of oil, and she and the therapist agree that the session will be for relaxation only, with no clinical techniques. The therapist suggests that Amy stops thinking about all the things that need to be done, consciously set aside her to-do list, and focus on quieting her mind and relaxing her body by slowing her breathing. To facilitate relaxation, Amy and the therapist agree not to talk. The massage therapist uses techniques typically used in relaxation massage, such as kneading and passive stretching of muscles in the neck and back, as well as gliding strokes on both the front and back of legs and arms. At the end of session, Amy is revitalized and confident that she will be able to manage all her tasks before the wedding. To preserve her sense of peace and relaxation, Amy decides not to run errands right away, but to go straight home and relax.
Massage for Headaches and Neck Tension
How massage helped John with his headaches John is a 55-year old Police Officer who enjoys fishing, hunting, and softball. But as summer approaches and John becomes very busy at work, he doesn't have time for his outside activities, and he notices that he gets frequent headaches that are often very intense. In February, after spending the weekend working overtime, he can't think clearly because of a very intense headache and stiff neck. John calls Northern Colorado Massage to schedule an appointment. The therapist suggests a combination of clinical trigger point therapy, myofascial release, and relaxation massage. After the session, John feels a sense of relaxation because his headache is completely gone. He calls his wife to say he is coming home to take her out to a movie and dinner. The therapist suggests that John come in once a week throughout his high workload period to counter the effects of stress, sleep loss, and long hours.
Massage for Sciatica and Low Back Pain
How massage helped Marley reduce her pain Marley is a nurse who has worked 25 years in the public school system and now manages the school nurse program. Her work is extremely stressful because budget cuts have reduced services, and Marley and her employees feel that they aren't meeting the children's needs. In addition, Marley's elderly mother is ailing, and Marley is responsible for providing her care. However, Marley has physical pain that reduces her ability to care for her mother. She cannot lift or help transfer her mother in and out of bed because of low back pain that radiates down her leg. When she finally goes to a doctor, the diagnosis is sciatica, a type of nerve pain that affects the lower back and legs. Marley initially goes to a Northern Colorado massage therapist to address this pain. The therapist suggests the following types of massage: Swedish relaxation, neuromuscular, myofascial, and trigger point therapy. The massage therapy sessions bring Marley relief from the physical pain. She finds over time that she is able to assist family members in taking care of her mother. In addition, as she becomes comfortable with the setting and therapist, Marley finds that her massages are a safe time to share her thoughts and feelings. This time to reflect helps Marley gain energy to make some changes in her life. She finds motivation to make self-care a priority, adds a physical therapist to her health care team, and begins pool therapy to increase her strength.
Massage causes physiological changes in your body through:
What is the relaxation response?In a massage, a caring, safe touch is an invitation to relax. This, together with pain relief, generally produces a "relaxation response."
The relaxation response is a state in which your heart and breathing rate slow, your blood pressure goes down, your production of stress hormones decreases, and your muscles relax. The relaxation response also seems to increase the available level of serotonin, which is a chemical in the body that positively affects emotions and thoughts. While this information is promising, more studies are needed to directly confirm the relationship between massage and levels of serotonin in the brain.
The relaxation response may decrease the physical effects of stress and reduce the risks associated with stress, such as hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, anxiety, insomnia, persistent fatigue, sexual dysfunction, digestive disorders, and psychological issues--to name a few.
What are mechanical responses?
The physical manipulation in massage has two major physical effects:
Massage is believed to improve blood and lymph circulation. This is probably due partly to the physical manipulation of soft tissue and partly to the chemicals released as part of the relaxation response.
Improved circulation can enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells. As cellular health improves, tissues function more efficiently. More efficient functioning leads to the removal of waste products and may increase the absorption of excess fluids and reduce swelling in soft tissues.
Massage therapy relaxes muscle tissue, which reduces painful contractions and spasms. Massage can also reduce nerve compression. To understand this, consider that when muscles are contracted, they sometimes compress the nerves around them. When these muscles are relaxed, the nerves are no longer compressed, and, in theory, can get proper nutrients and operate more efficiently. The nerves can assume their normal work of transmitting messages to and from the brain, which improves functioning of the muscles and organs.
Touching the skin or applying pressure relaxes muscles, tendons, and ligaments. In addition, while some of the deeper tissues of the body, such as deep spinal musculature, cannot be easily accessed by a massage therapist, the release of more superficial layers of muscles may also affect these deeper layers. This can lead to both superficial and deep tissues finding a better alignment and balance.
Organs can also benefit from massage, as they share neurological pain pathways with muscles, bones, and nerves. When muscles, bones, or nerves are distressed, organs can sometimes reflect distress and dysfunction. For example, low back pain can intensify menstrual cramps and menstrual cramps can cause low back muscles to tense. Massage can therefore improve symptoms associated with the functioning of both the organ and the muscles.