You've probably had a massage before – if not a professional one then you've at least experienced something a friend or family member has offered. And so you probably know how good they feel! But what is it that makes a massage feel so good? Is it just improving the circulation in your muscles? And if so, how does improving your circulation take away the soreness? These are questions you may have wanted to ask, but didn't put into words when you had the chance. Well, this article aims to help answer these queries for you now.
First of all, do you know the various benefits that massage can offer? Knowing what this physical therapy can do may help you get a better picture of what's going on in a treatment. These are some of the potential benefits, taken from the RMTAO (Registered Massage Therapists of Ontario) website:
- reducing stress, anxiety or depression
- back, neck, joint or limb pain
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- healing from dislocation
- healing from fracture
- pain from multiple sclerosis
- muscle tension and spasm
- post-surgical rehabilitation
- athletic injury
- asthma or emphysema
- pain from cancer
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- gastrointestinal disorders
- inflammatory conditions
- postural issues
- Parkinson's disease
- palliative care
- pregnancy and labour aid
- strains and sprains
- issues with stroke recovery
- pain from whiplash
Now, if massage can help with such a wide variety of conditions, then you can well imagine that it does indeed do more than improve circulation in your muscles. In fact, massaging can also help to reduce your pain, plus improve your joint mobility, your immune system, and your lymph drainage, and can even increase your body awareness.
A massage therapist can help improve your circulation because the pressure created will actually move blood through your congested muscle tissues, i.e. tissues that are getting less than adequate blood supply due to inflammation, or some other sort of obstruction (e.g. scarring). With improved circulation to your muscle tissues, you receive much-needed oxygen, and get help with removing lactic acid. The oxygen not only helps to produce more energy in your muscles, but also helps to stop the production of lactic acid. Lactic acid is helpful for producing energy in small doses, and does so when oxygen is not present to do the job. However, chronic build up of lactic acid can cause pain and fatigue in your muscles. Thus, by improving circulation you remove the pain-causing factor and help to introduce the element that your muscles really need to make energy. This energy is then used to help you move, and to help your body perform its many and varied duties.
Now you know how massage helps circulation and thus treats your pain and muscle soreness, and at the same time helps your body be in a better state for good health. Having this knowledge should help you get more from your next massage treatment!
By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc
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