Articles: Touch

The “Touch” of Massage

Touch is one of the first senses by which we connect to the outside world. As infants, different textures and forms fascinate us. As children, we enjoy running barefoot. But as we grow older, we spend more and more time living in our heads. (Our activities change from being mostly physical to mostly mental).

Massage, Steam and Stone Therapies counteract the relentless surge of work and domestic pressures, and helps you reconnect your body and mind. It helps the body cope with all forms of stress much more successfully.

Massage is perhaps the oldest and simplest of all medical treatments. For thousands of years some form of massage or laying on of hands has been used to heal and soothe the sick. To the ancient Greek and Roman physicians, massage was one of the principal means of healing and relieving pain.

In traditional cultures, especially in the East, it is accepted as natural that people of all ages can benefit from regular massage. But here in the West, though its value has always been recognized in the world of sport, its use has only recently spread to other fields. Massage can relieve tension, soothe away headaches and relax taut and aching muscles. This helps our bodies cope with everyday stress.

Massage gives you a roadmap of the stress areas you choose to hold onto in your body. Many times people don’t know how much stress they’re carrying until they have a massage; then they’re able to feel it and usually let go of it. As the massage stretches and loosens muscles and connective tissues or “fascia”, stress and muscular tension are released. Once you have an awareness of where stress lodges in your body, you can begin to do something about it. You start to educate yourself and your body, and you reverse a negative cycle, which often leads to disease (dis-ease). Massage, often prescribed for injuries and conditions of pain, works at softening the muscles first and then moves in more deeply to break up adhesions, and scar tissue. This allows muscles to become loose and more elastic, the way they should be. The body then may be freed of spasm and pain, increase its range of motion, and have the ability to avoid injury.

WHAT IS MASSAGE THERAPY?

“Massage is the systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body.”“Massage produces stimulation to the tissues by means of rhythmically applied pressure and stretching.”

WHAT DOES MASSAGE DO?

Massage affects every system in the body.

System                                       Effect .

Skeletal …………. helps posture by relaxing muscles

Muscular ……….. relaxes & removes waste build-up

Nervous ………………………. sedates or invigorates

Digestive …………. loosens stool, can stop digestion

Respiratory …… expands lungs by relaxing muscles

Circulatory …………………. dilation of blood vessels

Urinary ….………………….. floods kidneys with fluids

Lymphatic ..………………. helps circulation of lymph

Cutaneous ……….. helps elastin in skin stay healthy

•Massage stimulates the production of endorphins and other chemicals that help the body maintain ‘balance’ and create a feeling of well-being.

HOW DOES MASSAGE WORK?

Massage affects the body in many ways: mechanical, chemical, physical, physiological, and psychological.

•CIRCULATION

Massage directly affects the circulation of blood and lymph. Red blood cell, platelet, hemoglobin counts and the oxygen capacity of blood all show increases after a massage. Massage is even more effective than exercise or passive movement of limbs in increasing the flow of lymph, which depends on outside forces for its circulation. This increased circulation has a number of benefits, including: improved cutaneous (skin) circulation, aiding in interchange of tissue fluids, increased nutrition of the tissues, and removes products of fatigue or inflammation.

•NERVOUS SYSTEM

Nerve cells in the skin, muscles and tendons, and deeper tissues of the body are also stimulated. Massage is thought to have a sedative effect on the central nervous system as well as a local effect on sensory and motor nerves. It loosens mucus and promotes drainage of excess fluids from the lungs. Massage may even reduce an individual’s perception of pain and raise their tolerance.

•SKIN

Massage also has an effect on the superficial layers of the epidermis. The openings of the sebaceous and sweat glands are freed and, with the improved circulation, directly improve the function of these glands. Massage has also been recommended to achieve better healing of the skin after surgeries: by bringing more nutrition to the area through massage, the tissues will form a smoother scar and have less thick or keloid scar tissue.

•MUSCLES

Massage causes relaxation of voluntary muscles. It is more effective than rest alone in promoting recovery from fatigue produced by exercise. Massage can help increase muscle tone by speeding up the recovery rate between exercises, allowing you to exercise more frequently and build muscle faster. Massage helps to maintain muscles in good nutrition, flexibility, and vitality, to maximize its function and effectiveness.

•METABOLISM

Metabolism is increased directly after a massage. There is an increase in the output of urine. The rate of excretion of nitrogen, inorganic phosphorus, and sodium chloride (salt) is increased. These effects are due to the increased circulation of blood and lymph, rather than a separate effect directly on metabolism. You should drink plenty of water before and after a massage to help your body flush impurities from your system.

•“FEELS GOOD”

Possibly the easiest effect of massage for people to relate to is the soothing effect of massage. Basically, it “feels good”. The therapist’s concentrated attention to the client, combined with the pleasant physical sensation that results from massage, often establishes a close and trusting relationship. Even for those who are skeptical at first, realize how comforting, calming and enjoyable their session can be.

WHAT ARE SOME REASONS I CAN’T GET A MASSAGE?

There are a number of reasons for not receiving a massage, some of them are: any contagious illness; undiagnosed lumps, tumors, cysts or cancer; seizures; any contagious or spreading rash or fungus; or heart conditions. Any medical problems should be brought to the attention of your massage therapist. You will be asked to fill out a health history report on your initial visit and should be kept updated whenever something changes.

WILL MASSAGE CURE OR FIX MY AILMENTS?

That really depends on the condition. From the other information provided, you can see that many conditions would benefit from massage. Muscle related complaints are best helped by massage. Massage helps the body re-establish its natural balance so it has a better environment for healing to take place. Just like a doctor doesn’t cure your broken bone – he simply sets it and isolates it from moving, so it has a better environment to heal itself. Our bodies will heal themselves with the proper environment, facilitator, and examples. Massage will sometimes “show” the body where it needs to focus its energy into healing itself.