More than a luxurious experience, for many massage is a crucial element of rehabilitation
You might think that massages are just a luxury, but for many people they are a crucial part of their rehabilitation program. Patients who are recovering from serious physical injuries, suffering from chronic pain, or working hard to improve their overall well-being rely on the physical benefits of massage therapy.
How does massage work?
There are two main physiological responses behind massage therapy. First there is the involuntary relaxation response, which occurs through the nervous system and causes:
- Your heart rate to slow
- Fewer stress hormones
- Increased levels of serotonin
- Lower blood pressure
- Regular, steady breathing.
The relaxation response produced by massage helps reduce anxiety, hypertension, and a range of other issues.
There are also mechanical responses to massage therapy. In many patients contracted muscles squeeze or compress nerves, resulting in pain.
Massage therapy relaxes muscle tissues, reduces the pressure on sensitive nerves, and thereby alleviates pain.
Types of Massage
Not every type of massage delivers the same physical benefits. There are many types of massage, which use a range of techniques to provide different physical benefits.
Swedish massage is a gentle massage that focuses on long strokes, vibration, circular movements and kneading.
Deep tissue massage
Deep tissue massage employs slow, forceful motions to hit deep muscle tissues. This is particularly helpful for recovering from sports injuries and stiffness.
Trigger point massage
Trigger point massages zero in on specific areas or muscles to alleviate pain resulting from hypertension, injury or overuse.
Hot stone massage
Hot stone massage is a special type of massage in which smooth, warmed stones are placed on your body, or used as an extension of the therapist’s hands to enhance the beneficial effects of massage.
The physical benefits of massage therapy
Regardless of which type of massage therapy you undergo, there are a range of physical benefits including:
- Relaxed muscles – Tight muscles from sitting behind a desk all day, or over exertion can leave you stiff and in pain. Massage relaxes these muscles. When heat is applied, as it is in hot stone massage therapy, the muscle relaxing effects of the massage are amplified.
- Improved posture – Poor posture can be corrected. It is often caused by poor core strength, and tight muscles. Relaxing back muscles will allow you to naturally stand up straight, without pain.
- Improved circulation – Massage therapy forces blood to flow through areas of constricted blood flow, improving overall circulation and speeding up muscle recovery. With hot stone massage, the heat retained in the stones also stimulates surface circulation which then radiates deep into the muscle.
- Increased tissue permeability – Massage therapy opens pores in deep tissue to improve function. This allows waste products like lactic acid to escape and decreases recovery time.
- Improved flexibility and range of motion – As you get older muscles and joints tighten, restricting your range of motion. Massage therapy naturally loosens your muscles, which drastically improve your quality of life if you are hampered by a limited range of motion because of muscle tightness. Massage therapy stretches tissue in a way that it is not usually stretched, and also stretches the fascia (the sheath of tissue that surrounds the muscle).
- Improved Joint Health – As muscles contract with age, they can put pressure on your joints, and cause serious pain and future health problems. Relaxing your muscles allows them to do their job properly, and takes the strain off your joints.
- Relief of headaches and migraines – Muscle tension can be a major cause of headaches and migraines. Massage therapy relaxes your muscles and prevents, or improves migraines and headaches.
- Faster post-operative rehabilitation – By improving circulation, reducing stress, minimising muscle strain and other physiological processes, massage therapy can aid in post-op rehabilitation.
- Quicker rehab after injury – A long term massage therapy schedule, as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program, can speed up recovery times post-operation.
Curious whether massage therapy can help improve your health? Book an initial assessment with one of our experienced massage therapists to discuss whether massage can help you achieve your personal health goals.