With massage and sports therapy back on the menu at the clinic, this week we’re taking a moment to recap the benefits which message offers, and the reasons why you may want to think about adding it to your healthcare regime again soon!
Massage, like chiropractic, is a natural approach to health that falls into the category of “manual therapies” – that is to say, approaches primarily driven by manipulation of the body by a practitioner. Whereas chiropractic primarily aims to correct issues and maintain health in the bones, especially the spine, massage targets the muscles. It isn’t just the muscles that can benefit from a massage though!
Massage for the Muscles
Most people already know that massage is of huge benefit to the muscles. Muscles are made up of fibres that slide over each other to contract (shorten and fatten) and pull on the bone the muscle is attached to – this is what creates movement in the body, so your muscles are constantly at work!
Over time, through overuse or as a result of stress, your muscles can become stuck in a contracted state, causing stiffness, imbalance and pain. Muscles that are very tight and constricted can even reduce blood flow and impact overall posture.
Massage therapy can help by:
- Increasing flexibility by stretching and relaxing the muscle and encouraging it to return back to its’ normal relaxed length.
- Removing waste products, such a lactic acid, from the muscles. Left to build up, lactic acid can cause significant muscle pain.
- Reducing the formation of scar tissue. Through training and exercise, and just through wear and tear, microscopic tears occur in the muscle fibres. Massage encourages the body to repair these tears properly, rather than forming inflexible scar tissue.
- Reducing cramps We can increase the flexibility and tone of the muscle and reduce waste products within the muscle, which may reduce cramps.
Massage for the Cardiovascular System
Massage encourages blood flow to the extremities, organs and superficial blood vessels and promotes proper circulation.
Firstly, your massage session can help to improve venous return. Blood must work against gravity to return from the extremities back to the heart. Whenever possible, particularly on the limbs, we massage towards the heart to assist the return of venous blood. (blood carried in the veins).
Often massage can also lower blood pressure. By massaging we can have two positive effects on blood pressure. Firstly, we help the client relax and their heart rate (number of times the heart beats in a minute), decreases. As blood pressure is measured by gauging the pressure exerted on the artery wall, each time blood passes through the artery, fewer beats per minute will automatically reduce blood pressure – this being said, massage shouldn’t be seen as a primary treatment for blood pressure issues, but it can help where stress is an associated factor.
Massage for The Skeletal System
Since our skeleton is supported and moved by our muscles, correcting any issues with the muscles can also often improve problems that affect the skeletal system.
Massage can help to Improve posture, since tight muscles can hold the skeleton in a sub-optimal position, and in some cases can cause conditions, such as vertebral subluxation. Once the muscles are relaxed and lengthened, posture will also be able to improve. This of course assumes that the skeleton is also in proper alignment – which is why chiropractic and massage go so well together!
Furthermore, massage improves mobility, especially if combined with stretching and exercise. Some cases of poor mobility or limited range of motion can be attributed solely to muscular problems, chiropractic might be the fastest way to reduce any spinal issues which have occurred as a result of muscular issues, but it’s the underlying muscular problem that needs to be addressed to prevent an issue reoccurring. Typically, the cause is either tight muscle or a “drying” of the joint, caused by the synovial fluid in your joints becoming too viscous. Massage causes a release of fresh synovial fluid into the joint and helps to relax these tight muscles.
Massage for the Respiratory System
Massage encourages deep and relaxed breathing. When people are stressed they breathe rapidly and shallowly, tending not to get enough oxygen and not to breathe out enough carbon dioxide. Massage stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which slows and deepens breathing. Improved posture will also make breathing deeper – this is a nice feeling in and of itself, but over time massage can help you to retrain your body to breathe more easily and efficiently.
Some forms of massage also stimulate the intercostal muscles. The intercostal muscles attached to the ribs when contracted, pull on the ribs, which expand the lungs to cause inspiration – if you’ve suffered stress or injury to the intercostals massage could also help to recover from the tightness in the chest that this can cause.
Massage for the Lymphatic System
Massage is almost uniquely suited to assist with the drainage of lymph from the cells to the lymph nodes. It improves the circulation of lymph and the removal of toxins from the cells.
Massage also stimulates the production of lymphocytes (antibodies) which give us immunity.
In addition, massage reduces oedema (swelling). Injury or inactivity can result in a pooling of lymph, but this can be reduced by careful massage techniques.
Massage for the Endocrine System
Massage helps to promote the healthy function of the endocrine system, which is responsible for the production of hormones in the body. By balancing the body and bringing it back to a state of homeostasis, the release of hormones may become more balanced.
Relaxation and massage also counteract the negative effects of adrenaline, the hormone released when we feel stress. At the same time, massage encourages the production of endorphins, which make us feel great!
Massage for the Skin
Massage has many benefits for the skin – a proper massage increases the blood supply, which carries nutrients to the skin and may be seen as a redness (erythema) immediately after massage. In some cases, the elasticity of skin can also be improved – this is especially the case with existing scar tissue.
Massage can also have an exfoliating effect and removes dead skin cells. In addition, massage oil contains nutrients, which are infused directly into the bloodstream through the skin.
Why not add massage to your routine!
With so many benefits, massage is an ideal complement to a chiropractic treatment – and from this week it’s available again at the clinic. We understand that not everyone will be ready to enjoy massage again right away, but we’d encourage everyone to think about starting or resuming their massage treatment when the time feels right for you.