Massage therapy has become a relatively common and frequently utilized form of complementary and alternative medical care. Massage is generally defined as the manual manipulation or movement of the soft tissues of the body to enhance health and well-being. Massage may be performed with hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearms, feet, or a device to move the tissue.
Massage is usually applied with an intention of relieving pain, reducing stress and tension, improving circulation, and promoting healing from injury. Massage may also be utilized as a treatment for certain medical conditions, such as lymphedema following surgery or radiation treatment for cancer.
Massage has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure. Massage also improves range of motion, reduces spasticity in temporary paralysis following a stroke or spinal cord injury, increases immune function by stimulating the lymphatic system, stimulates metabolism to help with weight loss, reduces swelling after surgery, loosens adhesions around joints caused by injury or overuse, increases blood circulation to tissue and muscles, improves cellular function due to increased ATP production, reduces scar tissue build-up after surgery, relieves pain from muscle spasm, improves sleep quality/duration by reducing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, decreases inflammation to aid in injury recovery, increases range of motion through increasing extensibility of collagen tissue, and reduces muscle tension through increased blood flow.
Massage can also be used as a performance enhancer by increasing blood flow to the muscles to improve muscle tone and make it an effective part of sports medicine and injury rehabilitation. Massage therapy is also commonly included in spa treatments and many people find massage to be a relaxing treat that’s easily incorporated into their daily lives. Massage therapy can benefit adults of any age, but children and older adults may particularly gain many benefits from massage therapy.
Massage therapy has been shown to improve blood flow by decreasing vascular resistance in the small vessels (arterioles) which supply nutrients to muscles during exercise. Massage can also increase lymph flow by up to 400% in some cases. Massage therapy also increases blood flow by causing the body to release enzymes that break down fibrin. Fibrin is a protein present throughout the body which stimulates blood platelets to clump together and form a clot, restricting blood flow. Massage can also help prevent or reduce muscle atrophication (shrinkage or wasting away of muscles) which occurs when a person is unable to move due to illness, injury, or lack of use over a long time period.
Massage therapy can also help keep the joints moving freely by increasing flexibility and circulation through the soft tissues surrounding the joint. Massage therapy may improve range of motion in people suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Massage therapy can also be helpful for people who experience pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints due to stress, poor posture, lack of use, or injury. Massage may also help with chronic conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, and spinal injuries.
Massage therapy may also help with recovery after exercise by flushing metabolic waste from muscles used during physical activity which contributes to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Massage therapy can also benefit people who are unable to exercise or move their muscles because of illness, injury, medical treatment such as chemotherapy, prolonged bed rest, or lack of use over long periods of time. Massage therapy may benefit older adults by increasing range of motion and reducing pain associated with arthritis and hip replacements. Massage therapy can be used to help treat chronic pain (a condition in which pain persists for a long time), including that experienced following trauma such as an injury or postoperative pain.