An In-Depth Study of the Positive Effects of Massage Therapy On the Body:

The eleven systems of the body are:  

1. Integumentary System (skin & skin structures) 

7. Nervous System  

2. Muscular System 

8. Endocrine System (glands)
3. Circulatory System   9. Urinary System
4. Skeletal System  10. Lymphatic and Immune System
5. Digestive System 11. Reproductive System  
6. Respiratory System

 

 

Examples of Massage Therapy Effects:

1. Integumentary System (skin and structures derived from it): massage promotes normal oil and sweat gland activity, improving the skin's role as a protective barrier and in its elimination of waste products.

2. Muscular System: massage decreases the amount of fibrosis and adhesion that develops in muscle tissue after injury or immobilization, such as with a sprain or strain. Fibrosis is the formation of excessive fibrous tissue during tissue repair and adhesion is scar tissue that binds together normally separate tissues.

3. Circulatory System: massage increases local circulation to skin and muscles, clearing stagnate waste products and delivering oxygen and nutrition to tissues. This has the greatest effect on tissue that has impaired circulation, such as with someone with flaccid paralysis.

4. Skeletal System: massage increases circulation to the bones, benefiting their nutritional needs and aiding in their growth and repair. Joint pain as experienced with arthritis can be reduced by circulatory drainage.

5. Digestive System: massage physically assists the movement of solids in the colon, enhancing elimination and combating constipation.

6. Respiratory System: massage increases chest expansion and oxygen intake during inspiration, which is helpful for athletes and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

7. Nervous System:  massage causes stimulation or sedation of the nervous system depending on the technique used. Useful for people that are either sluggish or have insomnia.

8. Endocrine System (glands): massage causes a re-balancing toward normal levels of stress-related hormone (ie. adrenalin).

9. Urinary System: massage promotes the activity of the kidneys, enhancing the removal of waste products and reducing fluid retention.

10. Lymphatic and Immune System: massage promotes the reduction of edema and removal of wastes resulting from edema and inflammation. Improves immune function by reducing stress levels, as stress has been shown to decrease the immune response resulting in susceptibility to illness. Lymph is a fluid derived from body tissues that also contains white blood cells that protect against disease. It circulates through the lymphatic system, eventually returning to the bloodstream. Edema is an accumulation of lymph fluid between tissue spaces due to trauma, obstruction and several other causes.

11. Reproductive System: massage can help alleviate symptoms of dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) such as decreasing pain and promoting drainage.


Psychological/Emotional Effects:

It is well documented that massage is able to reduce anxiety, depression, stress and the hormone levels associated with it, and give the client a sense of well-being. Massage therapy has a positive effect on our mood states. Additionally, therapeutic massage can also bring forth a release of repressed emotions, which is usually part of a gradual process of the client learning to be more aware of areas of themselves that they have disconnected with.


Pain Control: 

Massage is recognized to have a great effect in reducing and managing pain that arises from a variety of sources, such as trauma, post-surgery, headache, fibromyalgia, arthritis and terminal illness. It can address the source of the pain and stop painful nerve firing, it can alter the processing of pain stimuli in the central nervous system (consisting of the brain and spinal cord) and can affect the processing of painful nerve firing by the peripheral nervous system (consisting of the nerves outside the central nervous system).

 

Preventative Measures:  

An important and often overlooked benefit of massage therapy is its use as a means to help prevent injury or other conditions from arising. Athletics will be used as an example. Depending on the sport, athletes may continually overuse certain parts of the body that can cause a build up of tension in muscle tissue and microtears of muscle fibres over time. Muscle imbalances can result causing compensation and therefore altered posture and biomechanics (mechanics of a living body). This will all lead to increased stress on the affected joints, ligaments (connect bone to bone), tendons (connect muscle to bone) and muscles, resulting in possible injury. Before injury, an athlete may only feel the symptoms of tight muscles, mild pain or a mild decrease in range of motion in tissue and/or joints, and disregard it only as symptoms of training.

Massage may prevent injury from happening by reducing muscle tension, increasing muscle length and flexibility, and assisting in the removal of metabolic wastes (derived from the chemical processes of cells in the body); therapeutic massage aids in relieving pain and reducing adhesions and fibrosis in injured and healing tissue. This would encourage a more effective and efficient environment for tissue and its surrounding structures to function. 

 

Maintenance: 

Another important and often overlooked benefit of massage therapy is its use to assist in increasing and maintaining the health of the body after recovery from an injury or when addressing certain conditions.

An example of how massage is used in the maintenance of our health is as follows. Our homes and vehicles need to be maintained otherwise they start to fall apart or stop working. Our bodies need the same attention we have for anything else in life, if not more. Even though we feel good and have no pain, it does not mean our body no longer requires attention. When symptoms arise, as long as they are not caused by  an acute trauma such as a car accident, usually means that there has been some sort of dysfunction going on for some time. This is our own body's way of saying "Enough, I have been trying to normalize whatever you have been doing to me but it is just too much to handle. Stop doing what you are doing or change something. Please." 

Massage can maintain tissue health by increasing its circulation thereby removing wastes, supplying nutrition, increasing drainage and decreasing pain. Therapeutic massage can maintain our general health by decreasing stress and stress related hormones thereby maintaining the function of our immune system and decreasing the chance of stress-imposed diseases and conditions. Massage therapy can maintain tissue health by decreasing the amount of fibrosis and adhesions developed from microtearing, overuse and lack of proper tissue nutrition; it can maintain our health by positively affecting any of our eleven systems. Massage can maintain our health by aiding in the prevention of injuries and resulting conditions. Massage can maintain our health by addressing, on a regular basis, the changes that occur to our body by the everyday stresses we impose on it, thereby allowing us to continue functioning in the most efficient and effective manner. 


Disclaimer:

I am not expressing that, with massage, you'll never become injured or develop a condition of some sort. What I am attempting to convey is that you only have one body in this lifetime so why not treat it as the most precious thing you own? As well, massage is not the only means of increasing and/or maintaining your health. It is one of many things that you can incorporate in what you feel is important to you and your well-being. As a therapist, massage constitutes only a portion of my treatment content and I understand the importance of always gaining more knowledge and advanced training in other modalities so as to provide the best treatment possible for my valued clients.

Please note that people with conditions that have brought about structural changes to the body, or with presenting pathologies, may only receive symptomatic relief with massage. However, in such cases, even symptomatic relief may make a huge difference in a client's quality of life. I do not believe that massage "cures" anybody; I believe that massage helps me bring positive changes to my clients' bodies so that they find themselves in a better position to heal and/or better cope with stresses that are so inflicted.

Hopefully this information has helped you gain a better understanding on what massage can do for you.

For more research based information on the benefits of massage therapy, please check out the Resources Section.  

 

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