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The science behind massage

[…]The most obvious and most often claimed benefit [to massage] is increased circulation. This is definitely true to the area being massaged, and the evidence is the skin having an increased reddish color, pretty simple.

Ok, so your neck hurts and rubbing increases the circulation, but so what, why does more blood in that area make it feel better?

The increase of blood flow delivers more nutrients to nerve and muscle cells and also aids in flushing away cellular toxins. As cellular health improves, the tissues function more efficiently. Body tissue that is starved of nutrients and oxygen heal slowly.

Just as if a garden hose has a kink in it, and then you undo that kink, the water has a burst of flow from the built up pressure, then the water flows easily through the hose again.

Ok, so back to that achy neck that you’ve been rubbing. Remember when you were little and you bumped your knee and just that little kiss from mom seemed to make it feel better? It really does! The sensation of pressure helps to block pain sensations from going to your brain. The idea of blocking pain with another sensation is commonly known as Gate Control Theory, even that shaking of your finger when you bang it with a hammer does the trick.

What else is going on when you get a massage?

When the muscles are tight or there has been an injury, the body develops adhesions, or bands of rigid tissue. These adhesions block circulation and limit movement. The tissue will “forget” that it can be looser and longer and muscles will stay contracted. Massage will physically break down these adhesions, softening them, stretching them or re-organizing them to go with the direction of the muscle fiber instead of against, to restore normal range of movement. Rubbing those muscles relaxes the tissue, reducing painful contractions and “reminding” the tissue that it can be looser.

And now our first big word of the day: Piezoelectricity. It actually means electricity resulting from pressure and parts of the body generate this electricity, including the repair material used after trauma or inflammation. The pressure from getting a massage stimulates, down to the molecule, that material to heal faster than it normally would.

It must be mentioned that massage doesn’t just feel pleasant and relax muscles, but also has a much more complex effect on your mental and emotional state. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce blood pressure, which is an indicator of stress.

When it feels good to be in your skin, you gain emotional and psychological benefits that are virtually impossible to measure. Massage can change your sense of self and be a catalyst for personal growth.

With all these benefits, you can see why regular massages (even once a month) are a good investment.[…]

The Science of Massage by Jennifer Kantzer