Massage Therapy is the application of soft tissue techniques, joint play, remedial exercises and hydrotherapy to provide beneficial physiological and psychological effects on the human body. The physiological effects include the breakdown of scar tissue and adhesions, the circulatory changes on vascular and lymphatic systems and its reflexive effects through the neurological systems. Massage therapy performed on a healthy person increases muscle flexibility and relaxation, and decreases stress levels.
Fibrosis and adhesions in muscle tissue often develop after injury, immobilization or nerve damage. Microscopic examination of these muscles after massage revealed that they have less fibrous bands between muscle cells and adhesions compared to muscles that received no massage treatment. Clinically, massage therapy is effective in reducing these adhesions and fibrosis in subacute and chronic injuries by relaxing muscles, decreasing spasms, improving the length of the muscles and reducing trigger points.
Massage therapy also decreases pain in several ways. Areas of poor circulation, usually the result of trauma or pathology, cause sustained muscle spasms, scar tissue and fascial restrictions which in turn further decrease circulation to these painful regions. Massage can break the cycle of pain by improving blood flow to areas of poor circulation to directly address the source of the pain and the firing of painful nerves. Massage also reduces edema, eases pain secondary to edema, lowers the chance of scar tissue formation and removes metabolic wastes as a result of edema and inflammation. By increasing circulation, massage reduces and manages pain that arises from a variety of sources, such as trauma, post-surgery, headache, fibromyalgia, arthritis and terminal illness.
Lastly, massage reduces stress, anxiety and depression to give patients a feeling of well being. Stress causes an imbalance in the body’s physiological and biochemical equilibrium which in turn creates more stress. Conditions such as asthma, depression, dermatitis, post-traumatic stress disorder become more aggravated by the knowledge of the disease. The application of soothing touch breaks this cycle of tension, fatigue, anger and confusion. As massage reduces stress levels, the patient benefits, not only psychologically, but physiologically as well, which in turn, creates a sense of wellness and relaxation.