If you’ve had a massage before you’ve felt the physiological changes that massage brings.
If you haven’t had a massage before….. then you’re in for a treat!
Massage has a way of gently moving us into a state of relaxation where our nervous system is calmed and soothed through the use of traditional massage techniques. This is known as the relaxation response.
The other common response triggered when having a massage is known as the mechanical response.
This is the effect that happens when pressure is applied to soft tissue like muscle.
Together, these responses can produce direct and indirect physical and emotional benefits.
What is the relaxation response created by massage therapy?
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 the heart and breathing rates slow down, the body begins to relax, the production of stress hormones decreases, blood pressure decreases, and the muscles begin to let go of their subconscious tension and relax.
The relaxation response also tends to increase the available level of serotonin, a chemical that positively affects emotions and thoughts in your brain.
While this information is promising, more studies are needed to directly confirm the relationship between massage and levels of serotonin in the brain.
Another major bonus of the relaxation response is how it combats the physical effects of stress and reduces the associated risks:
* Cardiac arrhythmias
* Persistent fatigue
* Digestive disorders
* Psychological issues
So what are mechanical responses to massage?
The physical manipulation of massage has two major physical effects:
* An increase in blood and lymph circulation within the body to help nourish and cleanse cells.
* A relaxation of the soft tissue (primarily muscles), which soothes and releases nervous tension and deeper connective tissues.
Improving circulation with massage
Massage improves blood and lymph circulation. For many of us who sit at a desk for long periods of time, massage is like a stressless physical workout in that it moves the fluids that nourish and cleanse your body in a healthy way.
Simple and very effective.
Improving circulation can also improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells.
A well-nourished and happy cell that’s functioning efficiently leads to the removal of waste products out of the body and may even reduce swelling in soft tissues.
Relaxing muscles using massage
The effects of a massage include a lowering of the everyday tension we unknowingly hold in our muscles which can lead to a reduction of any painful muscle spasms and irritated nerves.
To get a better understanding of this, visualize a tight muscle compressing the nerves around them. When these muscles are relaxed, the nerves are no longer compressed and can perform their functions more easily.
A happy and relaxed nervous system can more easily transmit messages to and from the brain, which improves the functioning of the muscles and organs. (something elite athletes have understood for thousands of years)
It’s amazing how rapidly muscles begin to relax during a massage. Even deeper tissues of the body such as deep spinal musculature, which can’t be easily accessed by a massage therapist, can be positively influenced by the release of more superficial layers of muscles.
Organs can benefit from massage too!
Organs share neurological pain pathways with muscles, bones, and nerves. When muscles, bones, or nerves are distressed, organs can sometimes reflect distress and dysfunction themselves.
A good example of this is when low back pain intensifies during menstrual cramps which in turn may cause low back muscles to tense. In this way, massage is able to improve symptoms associated with the functioning of both organs and the muscles.
According to Dr. Lily Thomas, an integrative medicine specialist, these are physiological and involuntary changes that take place in body systems. It’s these changes that impact our nervous, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and immune systems for the better.
Be sure to discuss any issues you may be experiencing with your massage therapist and make it clear as to what your desired outcomes are to work out a massage therapy treatment together.
During a massage, you should always feel very comfortable letting your massage therapist know if you’re uncomfortable, would like them to modify the pressure, or even whether you’d like them to spend more time working on a certain area.
Contrary to popular belief, massage therapists love getting real-time feedback from their clients as it provides them the information needed to truly customize the massage work they do on you.
A massage therapy session typically lasts between 30 and 90 minutes. Your “job” during this time is to focus on the massage experience by visualizing stress and knots melting away while the strokes of the massage therapist away. One very effective method when a tender or especially tight area is being worked on is to imagine breathing into the painful or tense area and then consciously relaxing it during the breathing. Almost as if you’re breathing out the tension.
Now that you understand more clearly the benefits massage therapy can provide and you understand how to get the most out of each massage session, all that’s left is finding a great massage therapist to work with.
Fortunately, it’s easy to find the best professional certified massage therapists near you using the MassageBook national massage therapist directory. Read the reviews for businesses and individual massage therapists to find one that is the best match for you!