Physiology and Benefits of Massage

The Physiology and Benefits of Massage

Massage Rx: Write yourself a prescription for greater health and well-being

Most everyone knows about the benefits associated with relaxation, stress reduction and improved sleep that results from having received a massage. However, the impact on the body systems and physiology has been mainly left uncharted in the Western world until now. Recent studies by scientists have proven the long-lasting effects that massage has on bodily functions like immunity, lymphatic system and recovery from life threatening diseases.

Massage is on the rise.
According to statistics recorded between July 2013 and July 2014 and provided by American Massage Therapists Association, approximately 32.6 million adult Americans (15%) had a massage at least once during that year. Increasingly, people are seeking massage therapy to prevent and manage certain health conditions. An estimated 54% of adults who scheduled massage in 2013-2014 requested the service for medical or health reasons. During that same period, about half of the sessions were documented for relaxation and stress relief. So, the use of massage as a supplemental health management tool is on the rise and expected to keep increasing each year.

Massage is not new.
In traditions outside of the Modern Western model, massage is esteemed as the primary source of preventing and maintaining a properly functioning body. The benefits of daily massage are promoted by sacred texts in India dating back thousands of years. Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic practice of massaging the body with herbal and prescribed oils every day as part of a complete healing and recovery procedure. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tui na is a massage form used in combination with other therapies that include acupuncture, herbal treatments and Gi gong. Massage in the Chinese tradition is actually considered an external medicine that helps to promote healing of acute and chronic musculoskeletal and non-musculoskeletal conditions.

Massage is supported by the medical community.
Chiropractors have long been supporters of massage therapy as an aid to balancing and preserving the adjustments made to the skeletal and nervous system. Surprisingly, the statistics gathered in 2013 show that 59% of medical doctors are actually leading the way with referring their patients to massage therapists–as compared with 49% of chiropractors and 43% of physical therapists.

Many areas of the body benefit from regular massage treatments.
Some of these include skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, lymphatic, skin, digestive and elimination. Because massage is a holistic therapeutic approach, the benefits are not isolated to only one particular region of the body. When seeking a treatment from a therapist, be prepared for the fact that the symptom you present with might not be the area that needs the most attention. This is an integrative health approach to facilitating complete healing that not only eases symptoms, but eliminates the root cause of ailments. Massage therapists use a combination of techniques that include manual manipulation of soft tissue and nerve response in reaction to stimulation through relaxation or movement.

Massage helps relax the body and mind by relieving the negative effects of stress.
In our day-to-day lives, we are often subjected to physical and emotional stress that we might not even be aware that we’re carrying. Some of the initial reactions to massage are ones of awareness. When the body is in a passive state and able to observe and receive, awareness is gained of where tension is held in the body. A sense of relief or discomfort might arise. As the recipient settles into the session, it’s common to experience shifts in breath patterns and heart rate. Other less obvious effects are taking place within the body that often go unnoticed.

A study in 2010 by scientists at Cedars-Sinai investigated the physical effects of Massage Therapy. In the study, 29 participants received Swedish massage for 45 minutes compared with 24 participants who received 45 minutes of light touch. Body chemistry was charted before and after the massage and up to one hour after the massage. Participants evaluated in the group receiving Swedish indicated that they experienced a reduction in stress hormones like cortisol and an increase in lymphocytes (cells that aid the immune system). What’s most notable in this study is that the results were apparent after just one session of massage. According to Dr. Mark Rapaport, “This research indicates that massage doesn’t only feel good, it also may be good for you”.

While it’s best to schedule regular and consistent massage sessions to maintain equilibrium in your body system, it’s obvious to see through this study that just one session can have a profound impact on your overall health. If you’ve never scheduled a massage before, make sure to arrange a one-hour session to reap the greatest benefits at an interval of every six to eight weeks. The money invested in preventative care will be returned to you in radiant health, happiness and improved productivity.

Physiological Benefits of Massage:

Skeletal System:
 • Increased joint lubrication and mobility; reduces thick fascia and restrictions
 • Breaks down scar tissue and decreases inflammation
 • Improves muscle tone and stress on bones

Muscular System:
 • Relieves muscle spasms and restriction
 • Increases flexibility and relaxation
 • Improves circulation and recovery from trauma and elimination of waste

Cardiovascular System:
 • Improves circulation of blood flow back to the heart
 • Improves overall blood flow; moderates blood pressure and decreases heart rate

Lymphatic System:
 • Reduces excess fluid through facilitating improved drainage of lymph fluids
 • Strengthens immune system

Nervous System:
 • Stimulates and soothes nerves
 • Promotes general relaxation and reduces stress
 • Reduces pain

Skin:
 • Improves circulation and regeneration of skin cells
 • Improves elasticity, texture and skin color

Respiratory System:
 • Improves lung capacity and relaxes respiratory muscles
 • Lowers respiration rate due to relaxation

Digestive System:
• Relieves constipation and gas
 • Stimulates digestion through relaxation

Urinary System:
 • Increases urinary response to eliminate waste from the body; lymphatic waste

 

Resources:

https://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/economic_industry-fact-sheet.html

http://www.amtamassage.org/uploads/cms/documents/client_tearout_web_su12.pdf

http://massagetherapy.co.uk/therapies-information/treatment-descriptions/benefits-effects-of-massage/

http://www.mapi.com/ayurvedic-knowledge/massage/benefits-of-an-ayurvedic-abhyanga-massage.html#gsc.tab=0