This is a question that our Registered Massage Therapists get asked over and over….And the answer is….
CIRCULATION, CIRCULATION, CIRCULATION!!!
When you walk into the corner of a table and hurt your leg, what is your first instinct? You rub your sore leg! Did you ever wonder why you do this? It is your instinctual response to encourage healing. By rubbing the sore area, you are increasing circulation to that area. With increased circulation, you are assisting the healing process.
Increasing circulation to an area of the body, will help deliver nutrients and oxygen to the muscle cells. When the muscle cells are healthier, the muscle has what it needs to function more efficiently. This can also assist with the absorption of excess fluids and decrease swelling in the soft tissue.
To optimize circulation to the injured or sore area, a few things need to happen within the body. Your entire massage therapy treatment is designed to assist with this optimization.
Your massage therapist can manipulate and encourage your blood and lymphatic circulation most effectively when your body is relaxed. Your response to stress is controlled by your autonomic nervous system. There are two branches of the autonomic nervous system – the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic response is often called the “Fight or Flight” response. When we encounter stress, this system responds to help us through. When the perceived stress is over the parasympathetic system engages to help us rest and recover. Your massage therapy treatment is going to be most affective when your parasympathetic system is engaged. With today’s busy lifestyles, people often get stuck in a fight or flight pattern and have a difficult time allowing the body to relax and recover.
We help engage the parasympathetic nervous system by creating an environment that allows you to relax and disengage the sympathetic nervous system response. Every aspect of your treatment is purposeful in achieving this goal. This is why we dim the lights, play relaxation music, and use soothing techniques. When the body is relaxed, the massage therapist is able to apply techniques to draw circulation to the areas of concern and thereby encourages healing.
The answer to the question of how massage therapy heals is largely answered in one simple word – circulation. However, the way that we optimize the circulatory response is well thought out and evidence based. Every aspect of your treatment is designed to help you achieve the most benefit from your massage therapy treatment.