In massage therapy, there can be at least partial restoration of the proper joint function of the spine and extremities along with strengthening of the supporting muscles and soft tissue. Massage therapy is able to loosen and stretch the connective tissue and muscle. It can improve the flow of lymph fluid and of blood flow so that metabolic waste products resulting from exercise or inactivity can be removed from the body.
Oxygen, on the other hand, is brought into the tissues along with healthy nutrients. These things act on sensory receptors within the skin so that the muscles can begin to wake up, bringing to the patient a new awareness to parts of the body that have been cut off by chronic patterns of tension.
Massage can affect pain via the central nervous system. According to the “gate theory” of pain, there are messages of pain that normally travel from the area of brain injury to parts of the brain that are responsible for interpreting pain. These messages or pathways are blocked so that pain is misinterpreted. Massage works by stimulating and closing the gate of pain messages. In this way, the intensity of pain the brain perceives is lessened.
Massage is able to directly affect the muscles by stimulating those muscles that have become inactive secondary to illness or injury. If one receives deep and continuous massage, muscle tension can be relieved and there will be fewer painful muscle spasms. These are common following injury-both to the brain and muscles themselves. Fibrous scar tissue that is not properly healing can be stretched and broken down because there is not proper alignment to adjoining muscle fibers.
The various benefits of massage therapy include an increase in the circulation and promotion of muscle and soft tissue healing. Pain is ultimately decreased, especially those due to spinal injuries, headaches and poor muscle tension. Injuries can be rehabilitated by stretching the connective tissue. Cramps and muscle spasms are relieved and there can be reduction in chronic stress symptoms, anxiety and clinical depression, especially with regular daily sessions of massage.
There are multiple types of massage therapy including Swedish massage therapy, which involves using long, smooth strokes and kneading of tight muscles, aromatherapy massage, which uses essential oils to treat certain conditions, and hot stone massage, in which there are heated stones placed at certain points of the body which will loosen muscles. Shiatsu massage uses localized finger pressure on the various acupuncture meridians to help the flow of energy and to gain balance. Deep tissue massage involves friction techniques and slow strokes that loosen the deeper muscles. In Thai massage, the energies of the body are aligned using specific and gentle pressure on the meridians. You are stretched and moved into different postures similar to yoga postures. It is an energizing form of massage therapy.