The Benefits of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy has been used for centuries as a therapeutic treatment. It is widely accepted as an effective treatment for reducing stress, for relieving muscle pain and stiffness, and for aiding in rehabilitation.
Massage works by loosening tight, strained or spastic muscle fibers. These muscles are often painful and can usually be seen in conditions ranging from whiplash and tendinitis to headaches, or simply as a sore back. Tight muscles may impede circulation or press on nerves as in certain cases of sciatica. For someone who is suffering pain from these conditions the results of massage can be very dramatic.
The benefits of massage are not limited solely to muscular problems. Massage can be used in the treatment of insomnia, constipation or respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis. It can increase circulation and therefore, decrease oedema (swelling), as well as being helpful in the rehabilitation of many conditions, from fractures and sprains, to post-operative conditions.
A look at our environment can provide many of the answers. Each day we are faced with many physical challenges… such as office workers holding arms over a keyboard, construction workers hammering repeatedly, or bus drivers sitting for long periods with insufficient support. Work stations are often built to accommodate equipment, not different body shapes and sizes. Society demands performance, but workers don’t get the needed warm-up time before activities. Deadlines, traffic, air quality and many other factors lead to physical and mental stresses that eventually become evident as physical pain.
Massage therapy seeks to address some of these symptoms. While there seems to be universal agreement that massage “feels good,” it also offers many specific benefits. The therapeutic use of massage affects all systems of the body, most particularly circulatory (blood and lymph), muscular, fascial and nervous systems.
Massage therapy is also effective in the control of pain (chronic or acute), in stress reduction and in creating a sense of relaxation and well-being. Historical and current research documents the diverse physiological effects of massage, many of which are due to the movement of the therapist’s hands over the body, physically stretching the muscles, encouraging circulation, inhibiting muscle spasm, and sedating or stimulating the nerves to ease pain or promote function as necessary.
Many effects are equally preventive in nature. When muscles are loose and circulation is sufficient, the result is better health and less chance of injury or dysfunction. Some other effects are not well understood, such as decreased anxiety following treatment. Some physical and psychological effects may be due to the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. A massage therapist focuses on the normalization of soft tissues affected by stress, injury, and illness through the use of manual techniques that improve circulation, enhance muscular relaxation, relieve pain, reduce stress, enhance immune function, or promote health and well-being. Massage therapists specialize in the use and application of therapeutic massage techniques.