I have always been a believer in massage. As a physical therapist who has been practicing for almost 18 years, I often use massage to assist my patients in recovering from their injuries. Most recently, I took a trip to Chicago for a seminar. Toting my computer bag on and off the plan, packing and unpacking for security, and sitting for 8 hours a day in the seminar took its toll on my neck and shoulders. I developed a “knot” in the top of my shoulder. Intense burning pain plagued me for the next 2 days. I finally decided that I had enough and sought help from a massage therapist at the airport. After 30 minutes of kneading the knot and working the muscles loose I began to feel human again. But massage has many medical benefits besides just making us feel better.
Massage can help to alleviate stress
Stress can be found in all aspects of our personal and professional lives. There are good and bad type of stress. Sometimes it’s physical and other times it’s emotional or mental stress. But all stress, if left unchecked, can cause a myriad of physical problems from headaches to high blood pressure to difficulty sleeping. Stress has also been shown to bring on certain diseases. Research has shown that massage can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, relax the muscles, and improve the release of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Massage can also decrease the levels of cortisol in the blood which can help with overall relaxation and improved mood. After all stress relief is critical for anyone who wants to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
I have seen this first hand in many of my patients. Massage can promote improved circulation to injured tissue. This helps provide the necessary nutrients that the injured tissue needs to heal. Massage can help to reduce swelling, loosen the tight tissues, and break down scar adhesions. It can reduce muscle spasms and nerve pain. Just the physical touch of a massage therapist’s hands can stimulate the nerves and assist the body in calming down the nervous system so it heals properly. Massage can also reduce one’s dependence on pain medication after surgery.
Massage can strengthen the immune system
Many studies have shown that regular massage can naturally increase the immune system’s ability to fight off infection by increasing serotonin levels, increasing the body’s natural killer cells, and decreasing the number of T-cells. Massage is to your immune system like regular exercise is to your muscle.
Massage can relieve tension headaches
Millions of Americans suffer from headaches. These headaches can come from increased stress, lack of sleep, poor posture, and tight muscles. Massage can assist the body in achieving an improved level of relaxation which can help a person sleep better. It can improve posture by alleviating the tight muscles, improving circulation to those areas, and increasing joint flexibility and strength. Massage also promotes deeper and easier breathing which trains the body to relax and slows down the sympathetic nervous system while increasing activity in the parasympathetic nervous system. This is important in reducing the “fight or flight” response our body has to stress.
Massage can reduce risk of arthritis
As we become a society that is more sedentary, our joints become stiffer and tighten. This restricts range of motion and can lead to early degeneration of the joints. Our bodies are designed for movement and must move or we will deteriorate. Massage increases the blood flow to the joint, increases the movement of the synovial fluid that lubricates the joints, and makes the tissues more flexible. Not only will this reduce the risk of arthritis, but will improve athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Regular massage will help you to achieve a healthier lifestyle through stress reduction, pain relief and, enhanced performance in sports and daily activities. It can be a key in recovering from any pain, injury, or weakness. Flex Physical Therapy specializes in using massage to help our patients recover from their injuries.