What is Massage Therapy?
What is Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy is an alternative health treatment involving a range of techniques to manipulate the soft tissues and joints of the body. The purpose of massage therapy is to prevent, develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment physical function or relieve pain. It is a clinically-orientated health option that achieves undeniable results in the relief of an array of discomforts stemming from stress, muscular overuse and many chronic pain conditions.
Massage Therapists often use long, smooth strokes, kneading, and other movements focusing on layers of muscle using massage oil or lotion.
A good massage can have a profoundly relaxing effect, lowering stress levels, easing pain and inducing a blissful state of reponse.
Most of us get the occasional backache: we slouch over our desks, carry heavy loads, hunch up our shoulders and stand badly all of which may result in tense, knotty muscles. Massage can help to relax these muscles and alleviate the aches and pains they so often cause.
The benefits of a back massage go beyond simply relaxing the back muscles, it enhances the well-being of the whole body. Nerves branch out from the spine to reach all parts of the body, and through it's direct effect on them, massage can benefit the whole nervous system.
As with any therapy there are a few exceptions which are listed in our FAQ'S section 'Can massage help me?' but almost everybody can receive a massage and reap the benefits!
How does Massage Therapy work?
Massage Therapy improves circulation by bringing oxygen and other nutrients to body tissues. It relieves muscle tension and pain, increases flexibility and mobility, and helps clear lactic acid and other waste, which reduces pain and stiffness in muscles and joints.
Massage causes physiological changes in your body through the relaxation response. This is an involuntary yat predictable response of the nervous system to massage techniques and physical touch. It is also happens through mechanical responses which are physical effects that occur in the body when pressure is applied to the soft tissues.
Together, these responses can produce physical and emotional benefits.
So what is a relaxation response?
In a massage, a caring, safe touch is an invitation to relax. This, together with pain relief, generally produces a "relaxation response."
The relaxation response is a state in which your heart and breathing rate slow, your blood pressure goes down, your production of stress hormones decreases, and your muscles relax. The relaxation response also seems to increase the available level of serotonin, which is a chemical in the body that positively affects emotions and thoughts. While this information is promising, more studies are needed to directly confirm the relationship between massage and levels of serotonin in the brain.
The relaxation response may decrease the physical effects of stress and reduce the risks associated with stress, such as hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, anxiety, insomnia, persistent fatigue, sexual dysfunction, digestive disorders, and psychological issues... just to name a few.
The physical manipulation in massage has two major physical effects:
- Increase in blood and lymph circulation
- Relaxation and normalisation of the soft tissue (muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments), which releases nerves and deeper connective tissues
Massage is believed to improve blood and lymph circulation. This is probably due partly to the physical manipulation of soft tissue and partly to the chemicals released as part of the relaxation response.
Improved circulation can enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells. As cellular health improves, tissues function more efficiently. More efficient functioning leads to the removal of waste products and may increase the absorption of excess fluids and reduce swelling in soft tissues.
Massage therapy relaxes muscle tissue, which reduces painful contractions and spasms. Massage can also reduce nerve compression. To understand this, consider that when muscles are contracted, they sometimes compress the nerves around them. When these muscles are relaxed, the nerves are no longer compressed, and, in theory, can get proper nutrients and operate more efficiently. The nerves can assume their normal work of transmitting messages to and from the brain, which improves functioning of the muscles and organs.
Touching the skin or applying pressure relaxes muscles, tendons, and ligaments. In addition, while some of the deeper tissues of the body, such as deep spinal musculature, cannot be easily accessed by a massage therapist, the release of more superficial layers of muscles may also affect these deeper layers. This can lead to both superficial and deep tissues finding a better alignment and balance.
Organs can also benefit from massage, as they share neurological pain pathways with muscles, bones, and nerves. When muscles, bones, or nerves are distressed, organs can sometimes reflect distress and dysfunction. For example, low back pain can intensify menstrual cramps and menstrual cramps can cause low back muscles to tense. Massage can therefore improve symptoms associated with the functioning of both the organ and the muscles.
Why do people get Massage Therapy?
People get Massage Therapy for relaxation or for a variety of health conditions, or both!
These conditions it can benefit include:
• Back Pain
• Inflammatory conditions such as arthritis or tendinitis
• Stress relief and stress related conditions
• Headaches and migraines
• Muscles and related conditions such as spasms, strains and sprains
• Repetitive strain injury such as carpel tunnel syndrome
• Circulatory and respiratory problems
• Post-injury and post-surgical rehabilitation
It is well-known that massage therapy relieves stress. It is thought to help the body's stress response by lowering levels of hormones such as cortisol. Another benefit of massage therapy is that it boosts immune function.
Regular massage has a number of benefits including:
- Reduces stress
- Relieves tight tense muscles
- improves circulation
- Decreased stiffness and muscular spasms
- Provides an uplifting effect on the mind and body
- Restores balance and equilibrium between the mind and body
- Improves sleep
- Increased sense of well-being and relaxation.