Massage Health Benefits
Why massage is good for your health
Enhanced Energy Flow
Thai massage works from the belief that tightened muscles lead to the diminished flow of energy in your body. When energy can’t flow freely, you become inflexible, suffer pain and feel stiff. Overtime, this leads to shortened muscles and connective tissue that affects your posture, immunity and organ function – all of which speed up aging and disability.
The pressing techniques used in Thai massage are designed to increase blood circulation to facilitate the better flow of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. It also helps your body naturally get rid of waste, such as metabolic by-products and carbon dioxide, more efficiently.
Adding stretching to the massage process helps relax the muscles further, so that they naturally regain flexibility and tone. You will experience relief from chronic stiffness and your mobility will improve.
During a massage, physiological and involuntary changes take place in many body systems, including our nervous, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems as well as our endocrinological (hormone) and immune systems. These changes are the health and wellness benefits that can be attributed to massage and will be felt well after the time when a massage has finished.
Virtually every system of the body is affected by massage, either directly or indirectly.
Here is a guide to how your body can benefit:
The skeletal system:
Bone is affected indirectly by massage. Improved circulation of blood brings oxygen and nutrients to the bones. Joint stiffness and pain can be reduced. As the muscles become more flexible, joint movement increases.
The muscular system: Reduced tension in the muscles.
As you are pressed, rubbed and squeezed during a massage, your muscles are compressed. This forces blood, lymph and the fluid that bathes and surround the cells out of the muscles, taking waste products with them. These are then flushed out of the body through the urinary tract. A massage kick starts this ‘flushing’ process by increasing your circulation and it’s therefore important to keep your body hydrated with fluids after a massage to rehydrate the muscles that were previously filled with the waste products in the fluid. Massage also makes muscles more flexible by reducing muscle tone. Muscles tired by exercise are more quickly restored by massage than by rest.
The nervous system: Reduction in cortisol levels
When we are stressed, our bodies involuntarily respond by upping our adrenalin levels. This triggers an automatic response from our nervous system, which releases a ‘stress hormone’ called cortisol.
Studies have shown that massage is one of the most effective ways of reducing the production of cortisol. It has also been suggested that massage can increase dopamine and serotonin (the hormones that make us feel good) and decrease the levels of vasopressin, a hormone that is believed to play a role in aggressive behaviour.
Too much cortisol (and therefore stress) for prolonged periods of time is not good for your health and can lead to side effects like high blood pressure, lowered immunity and in serious cases heart attacks, strokes and more. Put simply, a relaxation massage encourages your body to slow down the production of cortisol, reducing the strongest contributor to the feeling of stress. By taking time out for a massage. you are giving your body the opportunity to lower the level of cortisol and reset your hormone balance, leaving you relaxed. Soothing massage can provide relief from nervous irritability and stress-related conditions such as insomnia and tension headaches. When used energetically to stimulate, massage may relieve lethargy and fatigue.
Massage can improve the flow of blood, which can help poor circulation. This is especially useful for anyone who is immobile.
Decreased blood pressure:
Cortisol causes constriction of blood vessels, which leads to an elevation of blood pressure. When you have a massage and the cortisol production levels are lowered, your blood pressure lowers as a result — it’s as simple as that. Adrenalin is a hormone that mediates our reaction to stress. Reduction in levels of adrenalin achieved through massage results in lower heart rate and lower blood pressure.
The kidneys regulate blood pressure by controlling the amount of water in the blood. When blood pressure lowers, the kidneys are removing water from the blood which they then expel through the bladder. So, you’ll want to replace the water lost in this way.
So basically, by having a massage and taking time out to de-stress, you can decrease the hormones that cause anxiety and increase the calming, happy hormones we all so need at this time of year.
Gentle massage stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps clear the body of a build-up of waste products. The relaxing effect of the massage can relieve stress, which in turn can boost the immune system. Improved immune system
Research studies have highlighted that a relaxation massage results in the stimulation of the lymphatic system resulting in a slight increase in white blood cell levels – vital part of the body’s immune system and playing a key role in defending the body from disease.
As you become more relaxed during a massage, respiration may become slower and deeper as you are using your diaphragm for breathing and expending less energy. Some of the massage movements, such as cupping, can relieve chest congestion.
Massage aids relaxation and therefore can help to increase the movement of food and waste products through the digestive system. This relaxation can have a balancing effect on the digestive system.
Waste products that have been released during massage find their way via the blood to the kidneys where they may be filtered out and eliminated.
Female reproductive system:
Menstrual problems such as period pains and PMS can be alleviated by the relaxing effects of massage, as can menopausal symptoms.
Improved mental wellbeing:
Massage has been reported to increase levels of serotonin, dopamine and neurotransmitters in the body that help reduce depression.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates a person’s mood, hunger and sleep. Massage promotes the release of serotonin, which promotes a sense of well-being thus explaining the positive mood experienced immediately after a massage.
Dopamine, another neurotransmitter which is elevated by massage, helps to form the ‘reward’ system in the brain: a massage which is viewed as a ‘reward’ in this situation induces the same kind of pleasure as, say a glass of wine. Massage can clear troublesome emotions and psychological blocks.
A healthy erect spine contributes to longevity.