There is a vast range of benefits that come with massage, and these benefits will differ slightly depending on the type of massage you’re receiving. I’m going to provide you with a basic overview of why massage should become part of your routine.
Massage is responsible for physiological change in the body through two responses:
- Mechanical Response
- Relaxation Response
These work together to affect your physical and mental wellbeing in several ways.
Manipulation of soft tissue increases blood flow which improves oxygen and nutrient supply to cells in your body. It also increases lymph flow which means waste product elimination is enhanced, some massages can be geared towards lymphatic drainage. Both of these results in amplified cellular health and improved tissue function. Direct relaxation of the soft tissue structures (muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue) being manipulated also occurs. This helps to release deep tissues and nerves which is often one of the aims of sports massage.
Massage slows your breathing and heart rate which causes a calming feeling known as the ‘relaxation response’. In turn, this boosts serotonin, also known as the ‘happy hormone’, and so the relaxation deepens which is part of the reason why you can feel elated after a massage. A relaxation massage is specifically aimed at generating this response which can often be enhanced with the use of essential oils either being used topically or in an oil diffuser.
Other Physical Benefits
When muscles contract they can squeeze the nerves within them. If the pressure becomes too much this can cause nerve compression which means they can’t send signals to the brain properly. All organs in the body share common neurological pathways. This is why internal organs can show signs of dysfunction if there is nerve compression within the body. Massage can help to relax the muscles, thus relieving pressure on nerves, allowing them to transmit signals efficiently again.
Muscular aches, pains and spasms can be alleviated by massage. These types of problems can be caused by stress, poor posture, or repetitive movements, all of which can be eased by massage. I’ll explore those modes of dysfunction in greater detail in another post.
Alleviating muscular tension through massage can reduce stress through a boost of serotonin, as mentioned previously, and decrease in levels of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’). Lifted spirits after a massage, coupled with releasing muscles under continuous strain from tensing, in a regular massage routine can contribute to easing depression and anxiety (Hou, WH. et al., 2010). It can also be an opportunity for self-awareness. During a massage the client is able to spend time paying attention to their body, particularly how it feels and the therapist can bring attention to what the client needs. It can be a learning experience for the client which encourages self-awareness during every day activities rather than just the hour or so they spend on the massage table.
That concludes this brief overview of the benefits of massage. Check back soon for a more in-depth look at types of massage and the positive effects it can have on the human body.