The Benefits of Massage
The United States is one of the only countries that considers massage to be a "luxury." Thomas Hanna, the developer of Somatics estimated that 50% - 80% of our health issues stem from muscular contractions. Think about that! Now I'll explain why...
Our body has a physical reaction, big or small, to everything that it experiences - whether that be a noise, a trauma, or an emotion. When we hear a loud noise we might contract our entire body as a cautionary measure. When we are anxious we might contract our abdomens, resulting in a contracted digestive system. When we are self-conscious we might contract our chest and create a protective barrier with our back (also known as "armoring".) We actually store a lot of emotions in our connective tissue, which is why many people will experience emotional releases during massage or in yoga.
If you think about the modern lifestyle, most things cause us to orient our bodies forward. Driving, texting, eating, working on a computer at a desk - these are all examples of that forward-leaning movement. When we are sitting we are actually contracting our hips, abdomen, as well as parts of our back muscles depending on our alignment. Those actions, combined with the daily stress that we are experiencing day to day can lead to a myriad of health problems.
Do you recall learning about parasympathetic and sympathetic states of the nervous system? "Fight or flight" is the sympathetic state, and "rest and digest" is the parasympathetic state. Unfortunately, due to our modern lifestyles, many of us are constantly in a sympathetic state, as it has become the norm for us! Furthermore, when we make dietary decisions based on pure convenience it adds to the stress we place on the body. Being in a stressed out, sympathetic state all the time leads us to contracting our muscles, whether we are aware of it or not!
When we contract our muscles, we release double charged calcium. This can lead to a build-up in calcium and lactic acid, (especially if we aren't getting enough magnesium) which prevents nutrients and blood from getting to our muscles and toxins from leaving. If left untreated, this can lead to calcifying muscles and adhesions between fascia, the sacs that surround the muscles.
Most clients complain of shoulder and back pain. This is often due to the large amount of muscles that overlap in the upper quadrant of the body becoming adhered to one another. Those who continue detrimental habits such as bad posture are subjected to pertaining dowager's hump, or a humpback, due to the muscle becoming totally calcified to the point that it resembles bone more than muscle. So this is why it's important to break up that fascia and liquify the ground substance in your body through massage and magnesium intake. I will be writing a post about magnesium soon as well so stay posted! But for now, here are some other benefits of massage for each system:
- Lowers stress
- Induces parasympathetic state
- Increases mental clarity and concentration
- Helps with nerve impingement (releases trapped nerves)
- Reduces pain
- Improves quality of sleep
- Reduces phantom pain
- Increases mind/body connection
- Releases toxins (pesticides, environmental pollutants, etc.)
- Facilitates physical and emotional healing
- Lymph and blood cells circulate 25x faster after a massage
- Reduces edema (water retention)
- Improves immune system
- Increases rate of T-Cell production
- Helps acne by draining lymphatic system
- Moves lipids / fats
- Increases the exchange of nutrients throughout the body
- Helps metabolic process
- Releases tension caused by temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Relieves constipation through abdominal compressions
- Releases adhesions of muscle fascia
- Increases flexibility and range of motion
- Breaks up scar tissue
- Increases elasticity of fascia
- Liquifies ground substance
- Reduces appearance of scars, cellulite, and wrinkles
- Releases organs trapped by tight muscles
- Deformation of collagen can release healing signals to the brain
- Promotes independent muscle movement
- Reduces cortisol
- Produces growth hormone
- Helps transport hormones
- Increases oxytocin
These are not even all of the health benefits of massage, as there is still much research being conducted to prove other theories. Massage is truly so vital to our health and such an important aspect of human connection, my hope is that it becomes less overlooked within our society as time goes on. It is now more essential than ever.