To some, massage may seem like a luxury or an option only for when pain gets unmanageable.
However massage is increasingly recognised as a valuable element of health care, important for physical and mental health.
Massage can decrease pain and tightness in muscles, relieve pain, improve mobility, and relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress, and sleep disorders.
Physical manipulation of the soft tissue (muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments) can be effective in releasing tension and improving muscular health.
Massage stimulates blood circulation, which encourages oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells. This can reduce pain, ease stiffness and soreness, break down adhesions and ‘knots’, and it appears to speed up muscle healing and recovery.
Joint mobilisation techniques can stimulate production of synovial fluid, to lubricate joints and improve range of motion and flexibility in stiff joints.
Massage reduces painful muscle contractions and spasms. This can reduce compression on a nerve if it is caused by muscle contraction, and the release of muscular tension can reduce headaches, migraines, back pain, digestive disorders.
The Science of Touch
A caring touch can make us feel good, and there may be a physiological reason. Massage is associated with production of oxytocin, the “love hormone”, which is released during bonding and makes us feel happy.
Massage & Stress
Evidence has shown that massage can lead to reduced levels of adrenocorticotrophin, cortisol and adrenaline – key hormones in the stress response (sympathetic nervous system).
Whilst cortisol and adrenaline are useful in this state of “fight or flight”, their presence long term can be harmful. Chronic stress can lead to muscle tension, fatigue, increased blood pressure, cholesterol, weight gain and risk of heart disease.
Massage engages the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) to reverse the effects of stress and return bodily functions to normal. This can mean reducing blood pressure and heart rate to normal levels, and helping the circulatory, digestive, reproductive and immune systems to work as they should after periods of stress. This relaxed state is known as “rest and repair”.
A therapeutic massage can be gentle and relaxing or deep and invigorating. Either way the treatment is an opportunity to calm your mind and take time for yourself.
Massage promotes the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter secreted in the brain. Serotonin regulates mood, hunger, and sleep, and promotes a sense of well-being and contentment. This may explain why many feel happiness after a massage, and enjoy good quality sleep and feelings of being rested and energetic the next day.