We all know that massage makes you feel good, but few of us really understand why or realise the full benefits it has on our health and wellbeing.
We tend to consider a massage something of a luxury (to pamper ourselves with) but what appears on the face of it to be just a bit of pressing and kneading of the skin, is actually a therapeutic process which brings about many positive changes in the body that can be helpful in relaxing, recovering and feeling better.
It’s a bold claim, but there is research to show that massage can not only promote relaxation, but can also help relieve pain, promote healing and improve performance – the latter might go some way to explaining why sports massage is so popular with athletes and people serious about their sport.
Let’s look a bit more in-depth at the changes that take place within the body during a massage and how they can have a positive effect on the way we feel…
In the nervous system, there are two mechanisms which are triggered by massage:-
Light to moderate touch / pressure activates the cutaneous (skin) receptors which relay messages quickly to the spinal cord. These messages are believed to block the slower ‘danger messages’ (which ultimately lead to you experience pain) at the spinal cord.
Firmer more vigorous massage, which may cause some discomfort, (rather than a definite ‘ouch’pain!) has a different effect on the pain system. This slightly unpleasant sensation appears to stimulate nerve cells within the brain, which in turn initiate activity in the parts of the brain that are responsible for releasing the natural opiates (pain relieving chemicals or endorphins). These chemicals are thought to affect the part of the body that is transmitting the ‘danger signal’ although this does vary from person to person as the pain system is affected by a number of different factors such as stress levels, length of time pain has been present and hormones.
Promoting Healing and Improving Muscle Performance
Massage increases blood flow and thereby oxygen to the tissues by dilating (opening/widening) the more superficial blood vessels. This has a number of positive effects including relaxing the muscles and aiding the healing process to injured structures. Tissue requires a good blood and oxygen supply to remove the damaged cells from the injured tissue and enhances the flow of the chemicals that stimulate new tissue growth and aid repair.
Swelling is a natural part of the healing process and will occur when tissue is damaged. However, persistent swelling can be a problem because is can cause on-going pain with the physical pressure it exerts on the structures around it, reducing blood flow and affecting the local muscle’s performance. Massage improves the performance of the lymphatic (drainage) system, which is responsible for removing excessive fluid from the tissues and therefore reducing swelling. Increased blood flow can also reduce muscle spasm, increase the force of the muscles contraction and enhance the muscles ability to perform for longer periods.
Massage is also believed to breakdown adhesions (scar tissue) in the muscle fibres although exactly what happens within the tissue is not fully understood.
Relaxation comes in many forms and undoubtedly reducing pain or swelling and improving blood flow will be enough to totally relax some of us! But massage has a positive affect on mood and stress levels too. Our autonomic nervous system, this controls the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response to danger, produces a steroid hormone called cortisol which basically makes us more alert and quickens our responses.
However, feeling stressed, not sleeping well can maintain high levels of cortisol for a prolonged periods, affecting many of the body’s normal functions such as the healing process, by blocking the release of the healing chemicals. Massage is believed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces heart rate, cortisol production and is responsible for helping to maintain harmony in our body’s systems.
The Benefits of Having a Regular Massage
Our clients who already use massage as a key part of their health & wellness regime will tell you that they feel less stressed, have more energy, recover more quickly after their sporting exertions and have less pain, with less reliance on pain-killers. The role of stress is particularly significant as there is evidence to suggest that many ailments and illnesses we experience can be triggered by stress. So just reducing your stress levels could have potential long term benefits. So if you have never had a massage before and are curious as to how it can improve the way you feel, then come along for a free taster and experience it for yourself.
FREE MASSAGE TASTER
Not had a massage before? Why not see for yourself. Come for a FREE 30min.
To book, just call the clinic on 2749542 and ask for your Free Massage Taster
‘Massage – The Scientific basis of an ancient art: part 2. Physiological and therapeutic effects’(1994) Geoffrey C Goats. British Journal of Sports Medicine
‘The effects of heat and massage application on autonomic nervous system’ (2011) Lee, Y.H, Park, B.N.R & Kim, S.H. Yonsei Medical Journal.