Aside from being an important part of personal care, Massage Therapy is increasingly prescribed within the complementary and integrative health care model and is often recommended along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions spanning the mental, emotional and physical spectrum of imbalances and diseases.
Therapeutic Massage can be beneficial throughout the healing cycle including for prevention, during treatment and maintenance when executed by skillful, informed practitioners.
Studies have shown that the benefits of Massage Therapy have been known to include:
Reducing stress and increasing relaxation
Reducing pain and muscle soreness and tension
Improving circulation, energy and alertness
Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
Improving immune function
Improving joint function or joint range of motion
Here’s how Massage Therapy Can Work for Pain Management
Massage Therapy Can Improve Mood
The emotional value of touch and its effects on mood and mental health are profound though it can sometimes be difficult to measure.
Research has shown that touch has many physiological effects. Touch is neurologically complex, the skin itself is rich in nerve endings and researchers has even identified the existence of specialized nerve fibers that respond only to light stroking at specific rates. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19363489
Massage Therapy and healing touch can also trigger the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) which create the feeling of euphoria and tingling that we may experience from therapeutic touch as well as from auditory and / or visual stimuli. These sensations effect mood and physiology and therefore may also contribute to the therapeutic benefits of massage on both mental and physical health.
Massage Therapy research has also shown that massage positively effects mood and specifically: has been known to reduce both depression and anxiety. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21589715 in studies.
Massage Therapy Can Reduce Muscle Tension, Stress and Can Be Relaxing
Massage can be relaxing both psychologically and physiologically.
Skillful manipulation of the muscles can help ease muscle tension, elongate fascia and sooth tissue.
Massage can have a soothing effect on the skin, nerve endings and can aid in reducing some forms of nerve pain or nerve impingement.
Studies have shown that Massage Therapy can have a positive effect on decreasing levels of cortisol and increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine, hormones that affect stress, sleep and mood.
Additionally, massage can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the part on the autonomic nervous system that invokes the relaxation response.
Massage Therapy Can Reduce Muscle Tightness and Can Improve Joint Function
Muscles work in pairs and in many cases some muscles are overused or overworked or compensating on behalf of other under functioning structures.
This can be expressed as tightness, adhesions or spasming and the development of compensation patterns.
These can negatively affect joint alignment and joint function.
A solid understanding of anatomy, alignment and joint function, combined with the skillful application of Massage strokes can address these patterns, along with retraining.
Massage Therapy Can Reduces Muscle Soreness and Speed Injury Recovery
When injury is present there is damage to tissue; swelling and soreness may be present, nerves may be impinged.
Therapeutic Massage can aid in injury recovery by both helping to nourish tissue while increasing blood flow to affected or surrounding areas.
Massage can also help evacuate waste fluids through a lymphatic type massage which can reduce lymph related swelling (see below).
In many cases compensation patterns start to develop and cause secondary issues including reduced range of motion, a-symmetries and joint misalignment.
Nerve pain caused by impingements may be positively addressed thru skillful therapeutic massage.
Medically related massage on injured tissue should only be carried out by experienced manual therapists.
Massage Therapy Increases Circulation and Can Aid in the Elimination of Waste Fluids.
Blood provides oxygen and food to muscle tissue. Skillful massage strokes can provide nourishment to tissue by pumping fresh blood and oxygen to it while also flushing stagnant fluid out to be reabsorbed back into the circulatory system. This can also be hydrating for the tissue.
Other waste fluids can also be moved and eliminated this way including lymph and lactic acids.
Circulation and blood flow can be positively improved in the skin, in the facia and in other connective tissues.
Massage Therapy Can Reduce Swelling, Moves Lymph.
Lymphatic Massage is the form of massage that moves lymph thru the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is its own system and is a subset of the circulatory system that is responsible for immune function.
When edema is present Lymphatic Massage can be necessary and even life saving by helping to manually evacuate accumulated fluid in a system that is not operating optimally.
Non-lymph related “Swelling” can also be a result of blood engorging an affected area from muscle overuse or strain or trauma. A slightly different approach may be taken in these cases.
To learn more about lymphatic massage read my Blog on Lymphatic Massage.
Massage Therapy Can Be Detoxifying
For the same reasons mentioned above, Massage can be detoxifying by oxygenating and moving nourishment to tissue with fresh blood while also evacuating stagnant fluid from tissue to be reabsorbed by the circulatory system.
Massage can also stimulate and evacuate lymph thru the lymph system and speed the evacuation of other waste fluids from tissues.
To learn more about how Massage Therapy can benefit you please schedule a consultation at www.holistic-health-therapies.com
This post is not meant to be an exhaustive, scientific study.
However most of the contents have been verified in scientific studies found in Pub Med: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/, Cochran Library https://www.cochranelibrary.com/ and National Center for complimentary and integrative health https://www.nccih.nih.gov/
Your opinions and comments are welcome in the comments section!