The Benefits of Massage

The practice of using touch as a healing method can be traced back to traditional holistic practices from about 5,000 years ago. As culture and history evolved, so did the understanding of the healing effects of massage. Chemical responses including a decrease in stress hormones and an increase in serotonin and dopamine which are linked to happiness, are all associated with therapeutic effects of touch [1].

Today, massage therapy is highly respected and has been shown to have beneficial effects on a variety of conditions including: 

  •  Stress or anxiety 

  • Prenatal depression,

  • Pain management or syndromes such as arthritis,

  • Autoimmune conditions - asthma and multiple sclerosis 

  • Immune conditions including HIV and breast cancer 

  • Aging problems including Parkinson's and dementia. [2]

 

The holistic healing method of massage is now practiced across the world.  

What is Massage?

Massage involves pressing, rubbing and manipulating the skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments as a form of therapy. Massage techniques are commonly applied with hands and fingers but can also involve the elbows, knees, forearms, or feet. There are a range of motions used in Massage to administer the desired treatment. 

 

  • Effleurage, uses long, gliding strokes from the extremities inward at various levels of pressure

  • Petrissage, a technique that is rhythmic and may include kneading, skin rolling, lifting or a push-pull movement

  • Tapotement, a beating/tapping administered with the side of the hand, a cupped hand or fingertips used in Swedish massage

  • Friction, a technique that is physically demanding, consisting of deep, circular or crosswise movements with the thumbs, fingertips, palms or elbows, designed to penetrate deep tissue.

Types of Massage

There are many different types of massage, including these common types:

 

  • Holistic massage - Formerly known as Swedish massage, this is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapotement. It helps you feel relaxed and energised.

  • Deep massage. This massage technique uses slower, more-deeper strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It's commonly used to help with muscle damage from injuries or reduced mobility involves techniques such as trigger point, STR (Soft Tissue Release, compression and stretching.  It can be also known as Remedial massage.

  • Sports massage. Very similar to Deep tissue massage, but it's geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.

  • Lymphatic  massage. This massage focuses on the lymphatic system.

If you are unsure which massage would be right for you, speak to a Massage Therapist practitioner, most offer a fusion of many of the techniques mentioned.  You can also contact the GMCT or the CNHC to find a registered Therapist.

How does massage help Improve the circulation?

Massage improves the circulatory system by speeding up blood flow throughout veins and arteries, which enables oxygen to be delivered more quickly around the body. It also helps the body eliminate waste products more efficiently through the lymphatic system. Massage also has the ability to lower blood pressure and reduce the heart rate through long slow and rhythmic movements which help to relieve tension from the body. 

How does massage affect mood and emotions?

Massage relaxes the body and mind which in turn reduces anxiety, tension and stress which all have a negative effect on one’s mood and emotions. The act of touch can also be very soothing and comforting to a person. This can also have a positive reaction to one’s emotional state. Apart from the physical benefits massage can have on one’s emotional state, massage has the ability to have a positive benefit on the endocrine system, enabling the body to reduce the endorphins the feel good hormone and reduce adrenaline which it produces when the body is under attack through stress. Try my recipe to improve mental and physical fatigue.

How can massage help with muscular aches and pains?

Massage is great for relieving muscular aches and pains as it has a direct effect on muscles. It breaks down adhesions, lengthens muscle and stretches muscle fibres improving mobility, flexibility and tone. Massage also helps to disperse lactic acid and uric acid from the body which are bi-products from over exercised muscles and waste in the body. Both of these cause pain, stiffness in the body. As with the circulatory system massage increases the flow of oxygen as well as nutrients which are essential for muscle function and optimum health. Read my top tips on how to combine massage with the right essential oils.

What positive effects does massage have on the lymphatic system?

Massage can help move lymph around the body as unlike the cardiovascular system lymph has no central pump to help it circulate around the body. It needs the help of the musculoskeletal system to enable it to move round the body. Massage can manually stimulate the flow of lymph around the body. As a result massage enables the removal of waste, boosts immunity, as well as reduces certain types of oedema and cellulite.