What is Massage Therapy and Why Is It Good For Me?

In massage by Estelle Carr

What is Massage Therapy and Why Is It Good For Me?

You may be wondering about the benefits of massage therapy. What does massage actually do for me? Why should I get a massage? Yea, you know you can go pamper yourself with a massage at a local spa, a good way to relax, but massage has a medical side as well. Why is massage so good at relaxing people? Have you ever wondered what’s happening inside you to make you feel so relaxed?

Massage therapy has roots in medicine dating back at least 5000 years!
Massage therapy has roots in medicine dating back at least 5000 years! I’m gonna touch on some history of massage and then some current findings on massage affects. After that, maybe you’ll find massage to be something worth incorporating into your regular health routine.

SOME HISTORY

Massage therapy has been around as a staple in medicine amongst the oldest cultures for a very long time. The oldest known records of massage therapy to be discovered and documented came from China and Egypt. In 2700 BCE a Chinese text called “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Book of Internal Medicine” was written and included massage as an effective practice of therapeutic medicine.

Egyptian Tomb Paintings dating back to 2500 BCE depict men receiving and giving massage.
Egyptian Tomb Paintings dating back to 2500 BCE depict men receiving and giving massage. The Ancient Egyptians pioneered the concepts of Reflexology, a massage practice using pressure on a system of zones and reflex areas that purportedly reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work affects a physical change in those reflected areas of the body. The Egyptians also influenced the Greek and Roman cultures, who incorporated massage as routine therapy, with their first known recording of this practice dating back to 1500 BCE and 500 BCE. Massage may have been around for much longer than the discovered texts, because Ayurvedic medicine from India, which stands for “life health” or ‘life science” has incorporated massage since its infancy. Ayurvedic medicine’s earliest documentation has been dated to 3000 BCE. Then, along came Per Henri Ling, a Swedish doctor who coined the “Swedish Movement System”, now known as Swedish Massage, in 1800. Swedish Massage is the base for most modern techniques. And the rest I suppose is history.

MASSGE TODAY

Today you’ll find massage spas around the corner in nearly every large city. The most commonly found practices of massage are the Swedish Massage and the Japanese Shiatsu. Shiatsu is another form of massage using pressure to manipulate energy and blood flow, affecting the activity of paired emotions and organs, much like Reflexology. Massage is used as therapeutic and preventative practice in spas, gyms, and workplaces. It is used to maintain balance of internal and external health and is a growing standard in American culture. Massage has been incorporated into modern health care in such places as hospitals, nursing homes, birthing centers, physical therapy, and chiropractic clinics.

MASSAGE’S FUNCTION

Okay, let’s pretend like you have absolutely no idea how massage therapy occurs. What does the therapist do? How do I receive this treatment? What does massage therapy actually do for me? Well friend, massage therapy is generally performed with the receiver laying on a massage table, sitting in a massage chair, or lying on a mat on the floor. The process involves the therapist physically manipulating the soft tissue (skin and muscle) with their hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearms, and/or feet. This is sometimes assisted with stretches or tools.

This process softens the fascia, a thin tissues that wraps and separates everything and is reminiscent of cellophane.
This process softens the fascia, a thin tissues that wraps and separates everything and is reminiscent of cellophane. This allows the muscles to fully expand or contract and stretch in turn, which increases muscle strength and flexibility. This manipulation also increases circulation to those areas, aiding the healing process and enhancing immune function. When the therapist manipulates the soft tissue in this manner, tension is released from the constricted muscles, relieving pain and discomfort.

FUNCTIONAL BENEFITS
Increased circulation
Expedited healing
Enhanced immune function
Loosening the sheaths of fascia for full extension/contraction of muscles
Enhanced range of motion
Improved strength
Relief of tension
Eliminate pain/discomfort
Reducing irritability/stress

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MASSAGE OPERATION

Now folks, it’s time to get a little nerdy. Just a little. I promise you’ll find this cool. I’m one of those people that just has to know MORE! Why? How? ….Ah, …. now I know where my 5 year old gets it. Hmmm….Back to my questions… What else is going on deeper than the fascia? Let’s take a look. There are farther reaching effects than increased circulation and separating fascia as a result from massage therapy. In a study reported by Tiffany Field, Maria Hernandez-Rief, Miguel Diego, Saul Schanberg, and Cynthia Kuhn in 2004, massage therapy was observed to increased levels of dopamine and serotonin while lowering levels of cortisol. You may be saying, “Okay, what does that mean?” For those of you who are asking this type of question, let’s look at what these chemicals do in the body.

BIOCHEMISTRY BENEFITS
Increased Dopamine
Elevated Serotonin
Decreased Cortisol

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. It functions in motivational activity or reward-motivated behavior. It is also involved in motor control and triggers the release of various hormones. Dopamine essentially helps mediate desire and motivation.

Serotonin is a hormone that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. It also functions in the regulation of intestinal movements. Within the Central Nervous System, it regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. Serotonin also plays a vital role in memory and learning.

Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration. It functions to trigger other hormone releases associated with stress reaction. If cortisol is elevated for a long period of time (i.e. chronic stress) the hormone causes a decrease in bone formation and can lead to proteolysis (the breakdown of proteins) of the muscle tissue, also known as “muscle wasting”.

So, really cool right? Well, if that made your eyes cross, let me translate that for you. Increasing dopamine and serotonin enhanced all things cognitive, so daily regulations are more fluid, learning and thinking is easier. You should be able to sleep easier or more restfully and may feel like it’s easier to make it between meals without snacking. Your level of motivation is elevated and you essentially feel happier and pleased with the experience of massage and will likely want to repeat that experience. Then, decreased cortisol as well, allows you to feel calmer and less irritable, and reduces the negative biological effects of being so in demand at work or at home. Not to mention, it may aid in keeping your figure!

TANGIBLE BENEFITS
Enhanced cognitive function
Reduced fatigue/stress
Lifted spirit
Elevated Motivation
Increasing alertness
Diminished depression and aggression
Easier sleep
Regulated appetite

MASSAGE RECOMMENDATIONS

I highly recommend incorporating massage therapy into your health routine. Here at First Float, we have our massage therapists conduct full body assessments as well as discuss your individual circumstances that would affect your massage. You can come in on a whim to pamper yourself of course, but we look at massage therapy as more than a relaxing experience.

we look at massage therapy as more than a relaxing experience.
The First Float family’s ultimate goal is to empower individuals to continuously break through life’s obstacles in order to reach the next level, and ultimately fulfill their goals. We like people to realize and utilize the benefits they can reap from massage therapy to achieve their personal goals in stress management, or recovery and pain management. We offer memberships for those interested in incorporating massage therapy as a routine practice.

Why would anyone want or need a membership for massage? Well, depending on your goals and circumstances, your massage therapist may recommend frequent visits as often as once a week to once a month, for example. If you know you want to come in regularly, why not save some money! Memberships can help you stay committed to your health goals as well as save you some coin on a service you are gonna get anyway. Massage is best practiced in a routine manner and the frequency depends upon your goal.

  • 1-2 per month for regular body maintenance, such as getting an oil change for your car every 3000 miles or a teeth cleaning every 6 months
  • 2-3 per month would be for Sports Recovery or something that you want resolved but is not disabling you from living your life
  • 3-4 per month is recommended for those that have an annoying chronic issue or have a goal such as increasing range of motion, that is keeping them from living the life they want

The First Float family is ready to serve the areas of Charlotte, Huntersville, Lake Norman and more! We can’t wait to hear from you and break through those barriers!

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Citation
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207450590956459 

https://www.allalliedhealthschools.com/massage-therapist/massage-therapy-history/