People have always equated Massage Therapy as a form of relaxation. The relative calm and peace of mind that they get through massage are the most obvious reasons why people get massages, almost on a regular monthly basis. However, many simply do not know that there is more to massage than simple relaxation.
What is Massage Therapy?
Massage is a therapeutic regimen that involves the application of pressure, rubbing movements, and purposeful manipulation of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, through the skin, in order to provide a certain therapeutic benefit. Massage, when professionally executed by licensed and duly Registered Massage Therapists can bring a whole range of health benefits that can significantly impact the way the human body is able to function in its daily grind.
Massage therapy can take on a variety of forms.
Swedish involves kneading, circular movements, and long, gentle strokes
Shiatsu is the application of finger pressure on a specific body location often following the body meridians in acupuncture therapy
Thai involves the application of gentle pressure on certain specific body points as well as stretches and compressions
Reflexology involves the application of even pressure on certain areas of the foot
There are other types of massage such as Sports massage, hot stone massage, pregnancy massage, and deep tissue massage. While they go by different names, they all have one thing in common: the application of pressure and purposeful manipulation of the body, in part or as a whole.
Massage and Mental Health
While stress per se is not bad, distress however can lead to behavioral, mood, and bodily changes that can significantly impact your overall disposition. Massage has been shown to increase the body’s production of natural ‘feel-good’ substances known as endorphins. Together with dopamine and serotonin, these substances are known to provide a general sense of well-being to help you regain control in your life.
Massage can also promote a calming and relaxing effect via the release of these same substances. You will feel much more relaxed and worry-free after an hour’s session with a Registered Massage Therapist. In fact, this is the primary reason why people go to wellness centres for massages.
Massage and the Musculoskeletal System
Perhaps the main health benefit of Massage Therapy is that the changes in the functioning of the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are instantly noticeable. Range of motion of the joints is optimized and muscle aches and pains are reduced, if not eliminated. With purposeful manipulation of the vertebra and corrections in the natural movements of the body, you will gain absolute benefits from improved posture.
Patients with sports injuries, soft tissue injuries, temporomandibular joint disorders, strains, fibromyalgia, headaches, strains, and myofascial pain among others can greatly benefit from massage.
Massage and the Cardiovascular System
The relaxing effect of massage on the muscles significantly improves blood flow. Long gentle strokes help facilitate the forward movement of blood to help nourish the cells and promote the efficient drainage of metabolic wastes through the lymphatic organs. With the release of the body’s neurotransmitters, the smooth muscles of the blood vessel walls also relax to widen the diameter of the blood vessel. This also significantly improves blood flow. The increased blood vessel diameter lowers the pressure within the arterial walls to help lower blood pressure.
This combination of blood vessel smooth muscle relaxation, widening of the blood vessel diameter, and the reduction in blood pressure can contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system. Add to this the improved elimination of metabolic waste products and you will have a vastly-improved body functioning.
Massage and the Respiratory System
When massage is done, muscles tend to relax a lot better. The tension in these muscles is significantly lowered making them more efficient in their work. The smooth muscles in the respiratory tree also relax in response to the elevation of relaxing neurotransmitters and feel-good substances in the brain. The effect is that the smaller airways are more open and the diaphragm, the main muscle of respiration, is able to contract more efficiently. This results in more efficient breathing, further enhancing the delivery of oxygen to the different tissues of the body and help remove carbon dioxide into the air.
Massage and other Body Systems
Massage has also been shown to improve the levels of circulating cytotoxic killer T-cells in the body to boost the immune system. Among patients who are undergoing rehabilitation either postoperatively or post-injury, massage therapy has been shown to be particularly beneficial in hastening the rate of recovery.
It is without a doubt that massage is simply more than just a relaxing ‘me-time’. By significantly improving overall blood flow and releasing highly beneficial substances from the brain, these benefits are simply more than just skin deep. The effects of massage therapy can be aptly described as systemic, one that includes the whole body.
And it is this whole body benefit of massage that makes it a perfect addition to any health and wellness program.