Benefits and Effects of Massage

In order to understand the benefits and effects of massage, it is important to consider how the body responds physiologically.

  • Massage involves two types of responses:
    • mechanical responses as a result of pressure and movement as the soft tissues are manipulated
    • reflex responses in which the nerves respond to stimulation.

The Physiological Effects of Massage

Effects on the Skeletal System

    • Massage can help increase joint mobility by reducing any thickening of the connective tissue and helping to release restrictions in the facia.
    • It helps to free adhesions, break down scar tissue and decrease inflammation. As a result it can help to restore range of motion to stiff joints.
    • Massage improves muscle tone and balance, reducing the physical stress placed on bones and joints.

Effects on the Muscular System

    • Massage relieves muscular tightness, stiffness, spasms and restrictions in the muscle tissue.
    • It increases flexibility in the muscles due to muscular relaxation.
    • It increases blood circulation bringing more oxygen and nutrients into the muscle. This reduces muscle fatigue and soreness.
    • It promotes rapid removal of toxins and waste products from the muscle.

Effects on the Cardiovascular System

  • Massage can:
    • improve circulation by mechanically assisting the venous flow of blood back to the heart
    • dilate blood vessels helping them to work more efficiently
    • produce an enhanced blood flow; delivery of fresh oxygen and nutrients to the tissues is improved and the removal of waste products, toxins and carbon dioxide is hastened via the venous system
    • help temporarily to decrease blood pressure, due to dilation of capillaries
    • decrease the heart rate due to relaxation
    • reduce ischaemia (ischaemia is a reduction in the flow of blood to body parts, often marked by pain and tissue dysfunction).

Effects on the Lymphatic System

  • Massage helps to:
    • reduce oedema (excess fluid in the tissue) by increasing lymphatic drainage and the removal of waste from the system
    • regular massage may help to strengthen the immune system, due to increase in white blood cells.

Effects on the Nervous System

    • Massage stimulates sensory receptors: this can either stimulate or soothe nerves depending on the techniques used.
    • It also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping promote relaxation and the reduction of stress.
    • Massage helps to reduce pain by the release of endorphins (endorphins are also known to elevate the mood).

Effects on the Skin

  • Massage can bring about:
    • improved circulation to the skin, increased nutrition to the cells and encouraging cell regeneration
    • increased production of sweat from the sweat glands, helping to excrete urea and waste products through the skin
    • vaso-dilation of the surface capillaries helping to improve the skinís colour
    • improved elasticity of the skin
    • increased sebum production, helping to improve the skinís suppleness and resistance to infection.

Effects on the Respiratory System

    • Massage deepens respiration and improves lung capacity by relaxing any tightness in the respiratory muscles.
    • It also slows down the rate of respiration due to the reduced stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system

Effects on the Digestive System

  • Massage can:
    • increase peristalsis in the large intestine, helping to relieve constipation, colic and gas
    • promote the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates digestion.

Effects on the Urinary System

    • Massage increases urinary output due to the increased circulation and lymph drainage from the tissues.

The Physiological Effects of Massage

  • Massage can help to:
    • reduce stress and anxiety by relaxing both mind and body
    • create a feeling of well-being and enhanced self-esteem
    • promote positive body awareness and an improved body image through relaxation
    • ease emotional trauma through relaxation

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