Massage is a technique that is growing in popularity. More and more people are seeking it out for various reasons. Yet, the in depth understanding about massaging has yet to be understood by a great majority. As a therapist myself, even I have massaged several people who either have not had a massage before or do not have a good understanding about it or its full benefits. One of the reasons I have branched into doing a blog, is because I love to share information, to educate and to have a place where people can go to always have this information available to them.
So, YES! Massage can be a very relaxing and pampering experience to give yourself. But it is much more than that. Massage is truly therapeutic and is something that is beneficial for all; no matter what age, gender or culture. Nowadays, men and women who give massages are known as massage therapist who have been trained, who have learned and promises to abide by ethics (to keep each client safe), and studies anatomy & physiology just as intense as a medical or nursing student.
So let’s answer the question, how does massage relieve pain? I will try not to bore you with too much of the science (even though I love that stuff. Science that is.), but understanding the actual and in depth impact massage has on the body’s vast systems can be important knowledge to have. Especially if you, yourself, are dealing with specific issues that you were not sure if massage would be able to address, but does. The impact massage has on a person is both physiological and psychological.
PHYSIOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF MASSAGE
Physiological aspects of the body are broken down further into subcategories: Mechanical & Reflective. Mechanical are the internal working that keeps everything functional. Reflective are our internal systems that aids our responses to our external environment.
When fascia is healthy, it permits the skin to slide over muscle and bone easily, like when we walk, or stretch. Certain massage techniques are used to break up those adhesions and free up the fascia in order for it to work as it is meant to. Techniques includes: cross-fibre friction, skin rolling, fascia stretch, fascia spreading, connective tissue cutting, and specialized strokes.
Massage actually affects circulation in a great way and can be used as a preventative measure. Massage techniques such as effleurage (or gliding) gets the blood flow moving and circulating. Most therapist will also move the body and limbs around during a session to free up any compressed vessels, or muscles that are so tensed up and in constant spasm that it causes constriction to the vessels (similar to what the piriformis muscle can do to the sciatic nerve). The technique of compression, is also used in massage and that promotes proper circulation as well. The way I describe it to my clients is; when we compress a muscle group, it’s like when you step on mud that is in the process of drying (tight muscle), and water (blood) (or wet mud) underneath it comes through. When you step off, there is a bit of a puddle where your shoe print is. This is kind of what compression technique does. When a muscle group is pressed with an ideal amount of pressure, it allows blood to flow up to the compromised area. This helps to feed the muscle group with fresh oxygen, nutrients and anything else that it needs to be healthy, functional and living.
The use of effleurage (as shown above) in massage can help to get the lymph system moving and detoxing by creating a consistent wave of flowing strokes towards the heart. There is also a specific modality that some therapist offers that concentrates on and uses detailed techniques for the goal of flushing out the lymph nodes and allows lymph fluid to move and detox. This technique is called Manual Lymphatic Drainage [associations like Academy of Lymphatic Studies: www.acols.com and Dr. Vodder School International www.vodderschool.com are good resources for finding therapist that focuses on this technique]
Massage is beneficial to this function of the body, in that, first it provides the opportunity to be able to lie down on a massage table and take that moment to rest. Along with various massage techniques, the nervous system is encouraged to relax by way of getting the general systems to flow and start the trouble area’s journey toward healing. Most importantly; with each stroke, wringing technique, trigger point, petrissage, etc.; pain receptors stop firing and discontinues sending urgent messages to the brain.
PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF MASSAGE
Research and studies pertaining to the effects massage has on mental and behavioral health is growing tremendously.
(Resource: https://www.amtamassage.org/articles/1/News/detail/2930). It has been well documented of how massage is able to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Many chemicals are involved when it comes to psychological discomfort and challenges, which actually makes it physiological. It’s just that it affects our behavior and decision making processes. Knowing this now, we can have a better understanding of the onsets and resolutions to most mental disorders and cognitive behavioral processes. Talk therapy is definitely useful when it comes to guidance, goal setting, and actions for an issue. AND as an ally, bodywork / massage is an added solution that addresses the hormones and other chemicals that play a role. It involves the Autonomic nervous system. As mentioned before, the autonomic nervous system includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous functions. They can be triggered by thought processes, initial reactions from surprising situations, or mental habitual train of thoughts. More information about this or to find a therapist that offers services in this area can be found with: The United States Association for Body Psychotherapy http://usabp.org/somatic-psychology-body-psychotherapy
Massage provides opportunity for the body to begin to come out of the zone of stress. Squeezing the muscles is like squeezing out build up emotions, stress, and toxins that were brought on by cognitive behavior imbalances. Effleurage moves out and away toxins, and creates consistent strokes that tells the brain that “everything will be ok, and it is safe to let go the defenses and protections”. Further results includes: the adrenal glands calms and is in a resting state. The frontal lobe is not getting a hyper amount of blood flow that distracts from normal thinking abilities. And the gut can take in and process foods properly that the body needs.
Parasympathetic Nervous System is the opposite of SNS. This is the relaxed state. With the system of the body now freed up, the PNS can now allow the body to tap into normal functioning and react to life appropriately.
Those going through depression can also benefit from massage. With depression, in many cases there is a lack in body functioning. It is almost like an automatic shut down that you are not giving permission to your body to go through. There is also a physiological component to this disorder as well. Much of it is in the brain itself, involving the hippocampus and the amygdala. Studies are showing that the onset of depression is due to specific levels of key chemical that are produced and distributed by the hindbrain (where the hippocampus and amygdala are housed) and what these chemicals do to the neural circuits. Depression slows down the system, which results in the lack of motivation and lack of interested.
The body needs movement and activity to properly function. With massage techniques such as tapotement, percussion and more vigorous movements with the flow (going faster) stimulates and encourage the system to move and refill on what the body needs to function. Most people who have received massage during a time of a depressive episode, admits to feeling as though they have more energy than they did and are more positive than they were before the massage. This encouragement can go a long way with a person. It could motivate them to get into an activity that improves their mental functions, open an opportunity to be more social, and deal with their challenges more efficiently.
If this blog was helpful in anyway and you have any questions or would like clarification, please let me know.