Why Massage Therapy? Part 2

So you’re like most human beings and you have some tension in your body.  Let’s take a closer look. This could be caused by physical or emotional stress, but it is causing discomfort or pain regularly.  How does massage therapy help resolve your discomfort and pain?

Muscle Therapy

Two things happen to a muscle during a therapeutic massage: pressure and movement.  When I find a knot and press on it, the pressure generates heat.  Heat helps muscles heal by encouraging blood flow to the area.  This increased blood flow brings much needed nutrients to the muscle to facilitate healing on a cellular level.  Secondly, the pressure also forces stagnant blood out of the muscle.  You can think of muscle tissue as a kind of sponge.  Squeezing it will get rid of the old and make way for the new.

In addition to the pressure, movement is created during a massage.  This can help stretch muscles, which also helps to heal the body.  Sometimes muscles need to be reminded that they can relax more by having a therapist move them.  Movement also helps to break down another product of muscle injury: scar tissue or adhesion.  A good visual for scar tissue is a piece of patch work stitched onto a pair of favorite jeans.  Though the pants are repaired the fabric doesn’t quite move as freely as it used to before the tear. Massage stimulates the body to heal itself, so that the once injured area no longer needs a protective scar tissue layer. Or rather, it’s like the “pants” no longer even need the “patch”, so to speak.

More than Physical

All of this is only part of the full experience with a massage, but the emotional stress relief is harder to measure.  It can vary from person to person.  I have had people comment on how they started to relax merely by laying on the table before I even started the massage.  As the massage continues, one of the effects is the release of neuro-transmitters, specifically dopamine, seratonin, and endorphins.  What are these exactly?  These hormones help to fight different types of stress in different ways.  Most people would classify them as the “feel-good hormones”.  You can read more about them here.  So, after a massage you might have better sleep, a new perspective or solution to a problem, less body pain, or a new energy for life.

I also try to do as much active emotional therapy as possible through validation, talking, and giving thoughtful advice.

Self Care

In addition to massage, I always recommend three tips to enhance the benefits and promote the overall healing capacity of each massage: water consumption, stretching, and heat application.

Water. I’m sure there is a joke out there somewhere about massage and drinking water.  But cliche or not, it’s still essential to keep hydrated, not just after a massage, but always.  Hydration improves EVERY body system and function, but it is paramount to a healthy lymphatic system, which is stimulated during massage. I have heard a lot of theories about just how much is the perfect amount to drink, which can be confusing.  But let’s keep it simple. Just about everyone can benefit from drinking more water.

Stretching and heat application. These are two simple ways to enhance the effects of massage from the comfort of home.  I recommend at least one massage per month for every body, but in between appointments you can practice these two tips as well. Particularly on areas that are either really tight, or prone to tension.

Hope you enjoyed this information.