How can massage therapy help?

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While many people are aware of the physical and mental benefits massages can provide, it’s safe to say that the general population probably doesn’t fully grasp the science behind its therapeutic value. Alleviating tension and pain within sore muscles requires specific techniques that in turn result in multiple functions in the body that all work toward providing good health and comfort. Sure, relaxation is one of the ultimate benefits one can get out of massage therapy, but there are certainly more health advantages that can be obtained through this ancient practice. Check out the scientific examples that better illustrate how massage therapy works as a beneficial resource for your body:

The core functions of massage therapy

When breaking down the intentions of massage therapy, there are two primary functions that therapists aim to achieve: relaxation and mechanical responses. The difference between both of these responses is that the relaxation one is mental and mechanical refers to the physical reactions that occur once pressure is applied to certain parts of the body. It is this combination of responses that allows massage therapy to benefit the body physically and mentally simultaneously.

Relaxation responses

According to researchers from the University of Minnesota, the relaxation response occurs once a number of bodily activities begin to slow down, allowing sore muscles to finally relax. When experiencing a massage, your body tends to undergo a decrease in productivity in several areas, such as reduction in breathing rate, blood pressure decrease as well as lower levels of stress hormones being produced. This allows for increased production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps generate positive moods and thoughts. All of these factors account for helping the body achieve a level of relaxation not commonly experienced in everyday life, which in turn soothes the nerves and eases the mind, allowing anxiety to be flushed out.

Mechanical responses

This type of response refers specifically to the physical manipulation that therapists evoke in the body through their massage tactics and strategies. The University of Minnesota acknowledges two primary functions that occur during this manipulation process, which include raised levels of blood and lymph circulation as well as soft tissue progressing to a more relaxed state. Plenty of research has proven how massage therapy is able to help increase blood circulation within the body, which in turn provides plenty of much needed oxygen and nutrients to sore muscles. This also helps boost cellular health within the body, which allows muscle tissues to function more efficiently while reducing occurrences of swelling when muscles are damaged.

Relaxing soft tissue

Another easy way to understand how massage therapy works is by analyzing the relationship between muscles and our nerves. Compressed nerves are what can add to increased stress and anxiety in our lives, and massage therapy is what can help to calm these nerves down through manipulation of muscles. Every​ time muscles are stressed or contracted, they compress the nerves that are associated with them. Once pressure and the gentle rhythm of a massage is provided upon the muscles, the nerves will no longer be compressed, allowing them to operate more effectively. Our organs can also benefit from the practice of massage therapy as well. More often than not, stressed muscle and compressed nerves generate more stress within our brain and heart, which could result in further complications arising. It is through all of these techniques and procedures that massage therapy is able to produce more relaxed states of mind as well as increase the efficiency of muscles and nerves within the body.

Jill Lohmann is a Director of Operations for Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers and a certified physical therapist. Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers is a physical therapist owned and operated rehabilitation company with a network of 170 outpatient rehabilitation centers located throughout the Midwest, Arizona and Georgia.

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