Consider first the mechanical response to massage. The skillful application of the correct amount of friction or movement manipulates muscle fibers and stimulates fascia, tendons and ligaments to reduce adhesions and scar tissue. The resulting range-of-motion increases and reduction in pain can be measured and accurately reported.
Chronically tight muscles pull on the bones. Relaxing the muscles with massage improves posture; the resulting changes in skeletal structure can be measured.
Massage increases blood and lymph flow throughout the body, in much the same way exercise does, by squeezing the muscles, bringing nutrients and oxygen to the cells. It helps the body release toxins, expediting lymph to deliver the toxins to the liver, kidneys and skin for excretion. The increased flow of blood and lymph promotes healing of traumatized tissue, reduces injury, and speeds recovery of athletic injuries.
Athletes who use massage to prepare and recover from training sessions are able to measure improvements in strength, speed and agility. Some athletes replace an easy recovery workout with a vigorous massage: the primary purpose of both is simply to move the blood to flush the tissues so that recovery can be optimized for the next tough training session. The critical difference here is that any workout, even the easiest, has some training stress, but massage has the advantage of reducing stress in the body. Massage gets athletes to the next tough workout more prepared, with less stress.
A number of the body’s responses to massage are more subtle. Massage induces relaxation of the body and mind, reducing the damaging stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine (abundant with today’s busy and overstimulated lifestyles). Stress is a leading cause of disease. Relaxing feels good and is good for us.
Massage increases the availability of the mood-regulating hormone serotonin, which reduces pain and boosts mood and energy levels. CranioSacral Therapy boosts melatonin, critical in regulating sleep.
Endocrine optimization is important to the entire body. There are more neurotransmitters in the body below the shoulders than there are in the cranium, where the brain floats, and where it used to be thought all neurotransmitters resided. For example, there is a demonstrated link between eating disorders and serotonin. We know that 90 percent of serotonin is found in the gut. As reported in Psychology Today, four easy ways to boost serotonin are sunlight, exercise, remembering happy events…and massage! The brain/body link is profoundly facilitated by massage, flushing and balancing tissues, helping the entire person, including the immune system, skeletal structure and mood.
A more subtle benefit of massage is that of human touch. In today’s digital and more isolated society, intimate platonic contact with another caring human being is too often absent.Â Touch stimulates the production of the hormone oxytocin, which the body uses to facilitate emotional connections between people, to reduce anxiety. Touch – in the form of massage – helps reduce stress and calm the nervous system.
Massage affects the mind, body and spirit in a unique way, because few bodywork or medical sessions allow the therapist to spend an uninterrupted hour (or 90 minutes!) tending to your health and vitality. And the aromatherapy and music are designed to soothe the senses.
For an athlete, the smallest sensations of the body can be important to notice. Tracking the source of pain provides insight into imbalanced muscle groups or sides of the body. It’s often only when an athlete relaxes that he or she is able to discern previously undiscovered sources of training stress and correct troubling training patterns. Many clients are surprised to find tension in areas they didn’t know were inflamed. This improved body awareness can prevent injury, and is often the needed impetus to recover completely from injury.
Don’t take the therapist’s word that massage and bodywork as a foundation of a self-care routine has incredible value. Some Quantum clients have recently posted their own positive experiences with massage online (facebook.com/Quantum.Massage.Works):
- “I consider my sessions to be a big part of my overall health picture and I look forward to them. I feel the benefits long after the massage, as I have been able to deal with pain issues and strains much better.”
- “I had a sauna and massage yesterday, awesome combination. Scott’s work has helped me continue to stay active and feel good doing it.”
And then, there is the client who simply posted, “Ommmmmmassage!” In the end, maybe there are no words for how alive and healthy massage can make a person feel!