The Benefits Of Massage Therapy
By: Lisa Sutton
Massage therapy is often regarded as an extravagance, a luxury, or an expense awaiting justification. Few actually regard a massage as a viable form of medical treatment. But it is. Massage therapy is actually the simplest and oldest form of medicine. There are references to massage in Chinese medical literature dating back to 2,700 B.C.
Indeed, Hipporcates, the father of Western medicine wrote in the fifth century B.C., that “the physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in rubbing… for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.” I, for one, think that Hippocrates was on to something there.
Think for one moment, your very first reaction when you stub your toe, hit your funny bone, or bump your head. Instinctively, you place your hand over the injured area. Likewise, what is your first reaction when a cramp in your calf muscle jolts you out of an otherwise sound sleep in the dead of night?
Immediately, you get your hands on the muscle and feverishly rub! These very natural, genetically programmed reactions comprise the very core of massage therapy itself. An appreciation for the simple notion that human touch promotes healing.
The Origin Of The Pain!
It is a little known fact that most pain originates in the soft tissues of the body. For instance, headache pain often originates in the subscapularous (upper region of the back) and in the muscles of the head and neck. Lower back pain and sciatica typically originate in the muscles as opposed to signifying a problem in the vertebral disk.
For some conditions, regular massage therapy can even obviate the need for surgery. Carpal tunnel syndrome, for instance, a condition routinely treated with invasive surgery, is one ailment that regular massage therapy may actually correct.
A person that suffers from carpel tunnel feels pain and experiences numbness in the hands and fingers. The genesis of the problem, however, may very well be in the muscles of the head and neck!
Whatever the ailment, or condition, massage therapy embodies the elementary concept that the body’s soft tissues, muscle, fascia, tendons and ligaments respond to touch. Hence, the definition of “therapeutic massage” as the manipulation of the soft tissue structures of the body to prevent and alleviate pain, discomfort, muscle spasm, and stress to promote overall health and well being.
The benefits of massage therapy are incalculable considering that massage literally affects every system in one’s body. Aside from feeling good, research indicates that massage reduces stress, lowers heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases circulation, increases lymph flow, aids in elimination of toxins and increases endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers.
What Can Massage Therapy Do For You?
So, what can regular massage therapy do for those of us dedicated to living a fitness lifestyle. In this arena, massage therapy is much more than a mere luxury. It should be regarded as part and parcel of your dedication to living a healthy life. Research establishes that regular massage therapy improves range of motion, reduces recovery time, increases muscle tone, and increases flexibility.
Since massage acts as an “auxiliary heart” by increasing circulation, it thus facilitates the elimination of toxins and other metabolic wastes generated as a byproduct of resistance training. Additionally, massage therapy reduces the time that it takes the body to heal an injury.
An unbelievable case in point is one of my personal training clients. During an incline dumbbell press, she over-extended her shoulder. Not only did the weights come crashing to the ground, worse yet, when she got up off of the bench, she literally could not move her arm. Soreness and pain in her shoulder arrived the very next day putting her training on hold indefinitely.
When she phoned me and explained the injury, I surmised that she probably overextended the connective tissue in her shoulder, causing trauma to that area. I was absolutely right.
During a session of deep tissue massage I could feel the tightness in the shoulder joint itself, which not only caused pain, but also limited the joint’s normal range of motion. By frictioning the connective tissue in that area, I increased circulation, which naturally promotes the healing process.
After only about three sessions over a three-week period, the range of motion at that joint returned to normal and my client returned to the gym and resumed her training without incident. So, I suppose that Hippocrates was right way back in the fifth century B.C. when he said that massage will “loosen a joint that is too tight.”
Why You Should Get Regular Messages!
I do not mean to suggest that three weeks will cure any ailment. I am, however, suggesting that an investment in regular massage therapy will ensure that all bodily systems function at an optimal level. And, for those of us dedicated to our training sessions in the gym, regular massage therapy will enhance performance, maximize gains, and reduce your risk for injury.