What is massage therapy?
Massage therapy is used for pain management, increased movement and increased muscle function. In fact, massage therapy benefits people with all sorts of conditions. While there are numerous forms of massage therapy out there, most of them involve the manipulation of muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. This can be done by holding, moving or applying pressure, depending on the desired outcome.
Most physiotherapists are skilled in massage therapy, and use it to treat muscle soreness and the recovery from injuries. When used in conjunction with other treatments, massage can actually increase the recovery time for musculo-skeletal injuries. Sportspeople also use massage to maintain peak performance, because it’s useful in maintaining their range of movement and preventing injuries.
If you’re experiencing muscle pain or a reduced range of movement, it’s likely that massage will form part of your treatment.
Massage therapy benefits
There is a wide range of massage therapy benefits out there, from injury prevention to faster recovery. Overall, massage is also a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle and maintain a good range of movement. As we get older, our muscles, tendons and ligaments aren’t always as responsive as they used to be. Massage therapy plays a key role in ensuring we stay at our best for longer.
Physiotherapists incorporate massage into most treatment plans, because it serves so many purposes. Rarely will massage alone be enough to deal with more serious injuries, but it can definitely help. From pain relief to injury prevention, massage therapy helps in so many ways.
1. Pain relief
Pain occurs as a result of injury, swelling, surgery or even just muscle tightness. Fortunately, massage therapy benefits people suffering from all types of pain. The most common types of massage used for pain relief are deep-tissue massage, Swedish massage and remedial massage.
Deep tissue massage involves applying pressure to affected areas, which releases muscle tightness and therefore decreases pain. Swedish massage, on the other hand, has a stronger focus on relaxation, which in itself provides pain relief. It’s also effective for lymphatic drainage. Remedial massage involves the manipulation of superficial and deep muscles. The benefits are great, because not only does remedial massage help with pain relief, but also aids in the repair of damaged muscles.
2. Better recovery and healing
Massage is known to promote faster recovery from injuries and surgery. Most injuries occur through overuse, impact or even surgery. Generally, when someone is injured, they suffer damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints or fascia. Even surgery, which aims to fix certain problems, will leave behind scar tissue. So, with the help of massage, people can achieve restored muscle function more quickly.
Whether it’s remedial massage, deep-tissue massage or therapeutic massage, physiotherapists always recommend some form of massage during recovery. One of the main reasons massage is effective, is because it helps to break down the collagen fibres formed by the body to help repair damaged muscles. These fibres have their purpose, however they do restrict muscle movement, so massage helps break them down once their work is done.
3. Improved range of movement and flexibility
Most people have experienced tight or stiff muscles at one time or another. It could be a result of overuse, lack of use, or injuries. When muscles are restricted, or lose their elasticity, certain movements become more difficult. It’s also the reason people use therapies such as Pilates, to help build better flexibility. Massage also plays a part on this, because it helps relieve the muscle tension that’s holding you back.
Massage therapists manipulate muscles, tendons and ligaments to provide an increased range of movement. This is also a big part of surgery recovery, because it’s important for the body to slowly return to normal function. Hopefully, with the help of massage that normal function can also be pain free.
4. Relaxation and stress relief
Of course, massage is also known for its relaxation benefits. Contrary to popular belief, massage isn’t just about relaxation, but it’s certainly part of it. Relaxed muscles have less pain and better movement, which is why the relaxation component of massage therapy is so important.
We often talk about physical injuries such as muscle strains and tears, but massage also helps psychologically. Many people find massage to be an important part of their treatment for conditions such as anxiety and depression. This is because a relaxed body often transfers to a relaxed mind, which is good for everybody.
5. Maintain healthy muscles
Maintaining healthy muscles is important for your overall health. Have you ever heard people say things like, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”? This is very true with your muscles. If you’re not exercising them regularly, they become weak and fatigued which leads to injury. People with healthy muscles are far less likely to experience muscle pain. So, how does massage help?
Massage promotes healthy blood flow. Your blood carries all types of nutrients, as well as oxygen, and your muscles need these things to remain healthy. Massage increases blood flow, therefore increasing the nutrients your muscles receive. This is why sportspeople often receive massage before, during and after competition. An increased blood flow decreases their chance of muscle injury, and afterwards, it helps tired muscles to repair more quickly.
6. Reduced risk of injury
Finally, massage is a great way to prevent future injury from occurring. While this is true following an injury, it applies to everyday life too. When you damage muscles or ligaments, they need time to heal. While massage and other forms of physiotherapy help with this, there’s a risk of re-injury if the muscles aren’t healed properly. As we mentioned, massage aids in faster recovery, and this also means a better recovery. With the injured muscles relaxed and able to move freely, there’s less chance of doing the same injury again.
Even without an existing injury, massage can help prevent problems from occurring. Because it’s so useful in maintaining healthy muscles, massage prevents injury. Healthy, strong muscles with good elasticity are less likely to to tear, pull or be strained.
Massage therapy benefits everyone
Overall, there’s no bad time to use massage therapy. The physical and mental benefits are numerous, and you certainly don’t need an existing injury to benefit from massage. All people, young or old should consider massage at some point, because healthy muscles contribute to a healthy lifestyle. That’s why massage therapy benefits everyone!