Research has also shown that massage can:
- Decrease Pain
Massage stimulates the release of endorphins; the body's natural pain-killer.
- Decrease Headaches and Sinus Pressure
Most headaches are caused by muscular imbalance. Massage aids in the draining of the sinuses and eustachian tubes. I have had much success in my practice with patients suffering from migraines, tension headaches, sinus congestion and pressure. The combination of acupressure, stretching and working on surrounding musculature has provided relief to my patients.
- Support Healthy Immune System Function
Massage has been shown to increase circulating lymphocytes (white blood cells) in the body. White blood cells and the lymph are both part of the immune system which is the body's innate self-defense mechanism.
- Improve Range of Motion
Frequently after an injury or with repetitive stress, a joint can lose mobility. Massage helps to open the joint spaces, relieve tension in the supporting musculature and tendons allowing the joint to in turn relax and increase its range of motion.
- Prevent and Break-up Adhesions
Transverse massage strokes help to prevent adhesions from occurring in between the muscle fibers. When muscle fibers start to adhere together it acts to restrict their full range of motion. Stretching the connective tissues that surround and support the musculature promotes its health and prevents it from adhering to the muscle.
- Shorten Recovery Time after Injuries
Pressure from massage brings blood and nutrients to an injured area and assists the body in its natural healing process.
- Improve Circulation
Massage pressure moves blood and lymph fluids through congested areas. Massage acts to promote the venous return of blood back toward the heart. This is particularly important for enhancing proper circulation within the extremities. Vasopressin (a naturally occurring hormone in the human body) constricts or narrow blood vessels which leads to increased blood pressure. Massage has been shown to decrease the levels of vasopressin in the body.
- Improve Posture
There are 22 postural muscles in the body. When a muscular or structural imbalance occurs it can throw the whole body out of balance. Poor posture over time can impair proper muscle functioning and affect the structure of your joints. If a muscle is constantly being pulled tight and short then the antagonist muscle will be over-stretched and weak. Massage helps to relax the tight muscle and strengthen the weak muscle therefore helping with postural imbalances.
- Relieve Tension and Stress
Massage decreases cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that is released during stress. It is believed that vasopressin works in tandem with the pituitary gland in controlling the release of stress hormones. Massage decreases the levels of vasopressin in the body. Massage has also been shown to stimulate the release of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that controls mood, sleep and appetite as well as cognitive functions such as memory and learning. An increase in serotonin levels can aid in the treatment of insomnia and mood disorders.
- Reduce Muscle Spasms
Muscle spasms can be caused by a structural imbalances, prolonged use or overuse, certain diseases that affect the nervous system, compressed or impinged nerves and dehydration. During a massage, your muscles are sending messages to the central nervous system as a stimulus response. Massage engages the natural reflexes of the body to properly encourage muscle relaxation. The pressure and technique of massage can help to restore the muscle back to its optimal state.
- Reduce Inflammation
Massage provokes the release of histamines, which alerts the body's natural inflammation response.
In conclusion, massage therapy and all its wonderful effects can be beneficial to nearly everyone. It can serve as a crucial part of your health care treatments and your self-care regimen. When you treat yourself or someone else to a massage by a licensed professional, you are opening up the space for an experience that affects your entire physical and emotional systems. The body is a fascinating machine and massage supports and encourages your innate physical healing abilities.
Mark Hyman Rapaport, Pamela Schettler, and Catherine Bresee. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. October 2010, 16(10): 1079-1088. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0634.
Salvo, Susan G. Pathology for Massage Therapist 2nd Edition. Missouri: Elsevier, Inc., 2009. Print.
Sohn, Tina, and Robert C. Sohn. Amma Therapy: A Complete Textbook of Oriental Bodywork and Medical Principles. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts, 1996. Print.
Prezbindowski, Kathleen Schmidt., Gerard J. Tortora, Sandra Reynolds. Grabowski, and Gerard J. Tortora. Learning Guide [for] Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, Tenth Edition [by] Gerald J. Tortora, Sandra Reynolds Grabowski. [Hoboken, NJ]: Wiley, 2003. Print.
Peterson, Andrea. "Don't Call It Pampering: Massage Wants to Be Medicine." Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 May 2013.
Donahue, Pat. “Influences of Massage on Circulation.” Massage News. n.d. Web. 30 May 2013.