16 Sep Why get a massage?
One of the fundamental services that I provide with my clients, both injured and uninjured, is massage, and I would like to outline some key points behind this modality and why it might be appropriate for you.
What is massage?
Massage is a very broad term and has many different guises. To put a scientific definition to it, “the systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body” (1), with the soft tissues being muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage from different practitioners will all have common traits: effleurage (long, lighter, broad strokes), petrissage (kneading and compression), friction (deeper pressure), tapotement (percussion), and vibration (rocking and shaking).
Deep tissue massage, sports massage and friction type massage are all types of massage that are focused on affecting the tissue through deeper penetration of the tissue. These cause mobilization of the tissue and different relaxation effects to the muscles and nervous system as a whole.
What are the benefits of massage therapy?
The proposed benefits of massage are widely circulated with some being better supported in the scientific literature than others. Amongst these, the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) lists “25 Reasons to Get a Massage”, which include relieving stress, anxiety, and a a range of soft tissue issues, and to assist symptoms of other medical conditions (2). The key ones that I like to promote with our clients are: full body relaxation, pain regulation, decrease in muscle tightness, and lymphatic (swelling) drainage. Therefore, massage would be most appropriate to:
- Aid injury recovery
- Reduce pain and discomfort
- Decrease risk of injury
- Decrease stress, anxiety, and tension
- Relax the nervous system and full body
The mechanism of touch alone is extremely powerful, and has a profound analgesic, therapeutic, and physiological effect by modulating pain and down regulating substances in the body such as the stress hormone cortisol.
How does massage work?
You can group the mechanisms behind massage into three categories: mechanical, physiological, and psychological. Mechanically, the strokes create pressure changes and movements to physically encourage blood flow (or venous and lymphatic drainage), as well as mildly stretching the fibers of the soft tissue itself. Pressure on scar tissue can also help improve the quality of the alignment, creating a more functional and mobile scar. Physiologically, the increase in blood flow aids the transport of good things to the tissues, and removal of waste from the tissues. The reflex created by touch also releases ‘good’ hormones that promote relaxation, decreases stress hormones and down regulates the nervous system. Psychologically, the act of being massaged, which involves touch and interaction with the skin, causes a confidence and relaxation through one of the most sensitive organs in the body: the skin.
When should I get a massage treatment?
Looking at the benefits, there is always a good time to get a massage. The key times when we would recommend massage treatments are following:
- Injuries such as muscle strains, overuse or muscle and joint pains
- High intensity training weeks – to help improve recovery and subsequent performance
- Periods of anxiety and stress, such as following illness, work or life stresses
At the end of the day, I’ve never met someone who hasn’t been glad they’ve just received a massage. We all benefit from taking time to switch off, and improve our feeling of well-being and relaxation.
Other forms of bodywork
Along with the types of massage mentioned above, there are also other bodywork modalities which are highly effective and widely available. Self massage, or foam rolling, is a very accessible and convenient option: external tools are used by the individual to relax and manipulate the tissue to aid recovery, relaxation and decrease stress.
In addition, other bodywork modalities that we provide in our treatment sessions are:
- Myofascial stretching or myofascial release – The full body connective tissue that is connected to every muscle, tendon and even organ, can become immobile, restricted, and dehydrated. Techniques including movement and stretching are essential to maintain the quality and function of this key tissue.
- Thermotherapy, Cryotherapy – Exposure to heat and cold has different physiological effects on the body to aid recovery and supplement mobility work.
- Tool assisted massage – Use of an external tool to work with areas of restriction in tissue.
Further posts will explore these modalities in more detail, so stay tuned!
Hopefully this has given you a good understanding of some benefits that we can offer you in our massage and bodywork sessions. Don’t hesitate to come and experience it for yourself, and see how massage can improve your health, wellness and performance!
MSc, PGCHE, BSc, CMT
1. Prentice (2014) Principles of Athletic Training: A competency based approach. Fifteenth Edition. McGraw Hill.
2. American Massage Therapy Association. “25 Reasons to Get a Massage.” https://www.amtamassage.org/find-massage-therapist/25-reasons-to-get-a-massage/. Accessed July 13, 2020.