So you know that massage feels good. And that might be enough to keep coming back for more. But did you also know that massage is good for you? Massage has a TON of health benefits for the body. This week we’re going to take some time to name just a few.
Massage helps relieve muscle tension, whether that tension stems from an injury, postural issues, or just from hitting the gym hard and heavy. Or from hitting Jim hard and heavy (oh, for the love of puns!). Whatever the source of your muscle tension, massage communicates with your nervous system and says, “Hey muscles, you can let go now. I’ve got it from here,”.
In fact, what usually causes that sudden muscle ache is that a muscle (often Levator Scapulae - a topic for another post!) becomes overstretched or strained in some way. The wisdom of our bodies will tell this muscle that there is some sort of danger present, and the muscle will contract in order to protect itself. Which is great! This prevents tears or further muscle strain, and keeps you from becoming Stretch Armstrong.
What’s not great is that sometimes, even once the danger has passed, the muscle stays contracted. It doesn’t always know when to let go. The muscle contraction is what hurts, because your blood flow has been interrupted. Because it takes energy to maintain a muscle contraction, this can also cause fatigue - either limited to the muscle itself, or if enough of your muscles are stuck in contraction, all over body fatigue. And that’s where massage comes in. As Massage Therapists, we are using pressure (or other various massage techniques) to actually communicate, through the sensors in your muscles, with your nervous system. The message is that the danger has passed, and that it is ok to let go. Your sensors go, “Ohhhh...right”, and then your muscles go, “Ahhhh..” as the muscle contraction is released and the pain dissipates.
So by relieving muscle tension, massage in turn also helps promote better blood flow, ease fatigue, improve sleep, improve heart health, and give your skin a nice rosy glow of vitality.
It feels good to feel good! Why this might seem like a simple detail, taking time for yourself to do something that feels good has tremendous psychological benefits. You could be rewarding yourself for reaching a goal or completing a job well done. Or it could be that you are simply nourishing yourself and listening to your body’s needs. Either way, doing something that feels good is a great way to affirm yourself in a positive way. It reinforces the idea that you deserve good things, because you do!
Stress is one of those concepts that is so common that we seldom give it much thought. But what is stress? Is it an emotion or a physiological process? In short, it’s both. Stress in the body is actually a response to a stressor. Sometimes that stressor is psychological, sometimes it’s physical. Either way, the body will respond physically to this stressor, which in turn can also have an emotional effect on our well-being. Sometimes it can feel like you’re going in circles!
The good news is that massage is great for stress! While the physical touch of your Massage Therapist initiates a chain reaction of relaxation in the body, your mind is also attended to by the act of stopping and slowing down. By taking a mini vacation from the physical and emotional stressors in your life, you begin to break the hold that stress has on you. Basically, you’re still going in circles, but in the opposite direction. The more relaxed you are, the less stress you will feel, which will make you more relaxed, and… you get the idea.