August 25 2009 Massage Therapy: The Benefits of Regular Body Work
Copyright 2008, RedPointFitness.com
What if I told you that there was a new, killer supplement out there that reduced muscle soreness and tension, improved circulation, aided in muscular and CNS recovery, increased mobility and ROM of joints, resulted in better digestion and intestinal function, relieved both acute and chronic pain in suffering individuals, and improved your health and overall well-being? You guys would be beating down my door asking me where to get it, right? Many of you would be willing to pay out the WHAZOO for a week’s worth of these benefits!! Well I guess I will let you guys in on the secret…wait for it…wait for it…it’s not a supplement at all SILLY! It’s massage therapy!!!
Massage therapy is defined as, “the systemized manipulation of soft tissues for the purpose of normalizing them.” You see, every day our bodies are exposed to a slew of hormones, stimulants, toxins, stresses, etc that throw our bodies’ natural balance out-of-whack. Many of us are over-stressed, over-worked, over-trained, under-nourished and under-rested. It is nearly impossible for your body to recover in that type of environment! No wonder many of us can’t sleep, always feel tired and run down, have terrible digestive issues, suffer from allergies and/or migraines, and have a hard time achieving the physiques we desire. The good thing is, regular body work (massage therapy) can be a major step toward minimizing or even eliminating many of the problems mentioned above (http://www.massagetherapy.com).
Keep in mind that there are several hundred different types of massage, all with different benefits. Some of the most popular include Swedish, Deep Tissue, Craniosacral, Myofascial and Sports Massage.
Swedish massages are typically more relaxing and less “intense” than others types of massages and consist of five basic strokes all flowing towards the heart. Some specific benefits include generalized relaxation, improved circulation, and dissolution of scar tissue adhesions (Massage Therapy).
I like to get Swedish massages if my main goal is relaxation, or if I am not sure that the therapist is well-educated in other types of massage (i.e. if I get a gift certificate to a spa and I have never been worked on by that therapist before). Basically, in my experience, it is really hard to mess up a good ole reliable Swedish massage.
Deep Tissue massages require a very skilled therapist with advanced training and a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology. If performed effectively, it can help with chronic muscular pain and injury rehabilitation, and it can reduce inflammation-related pain caused by arthritis and tendonitis. Please keep in mind that it is very important for a person to be relaxed for a Deep Tissue massage to be performed effectively; otherwise, tight surface muscles may prevent the therapist from being able to reach deep musculature. It can often times be a good idea for a therapist to begin with another type of massage (Swedish or Craniosacral, for example) to help “prep” their clients bodies for a deeper and more effective massage.
I had a personal experience with this recently. One of the tightest places on my body is my subscapularis (aka “subscap”) area, and this area is generally worked on through the armpit (OUCH!). For me, this area always required lots of pressure from my therapist, and it never quite “released” the way we hoped it would. Recently, one of the therapists I see, spent 90 minutes or more doing Craniosacral work on me, and followed that up with some deep tissue work on my “subscap” area. The difference was incredible. She hardly had to use any pressure, and my body responded VERY quickly by releasing tension in that area. If you find that you need your therapist to use lots of pressure during a Deep Tissue massage before your muscles will release, you may want to have them “prep” or “prime” your body for the tissue work by using other massage techniques first. However, please make sure your therapist is trained in the types of massage you request. Therapists often specialize in a couple of different types of massage, so be sure to ask what their specialties are before your appointment
Craniosacral massage is a type of massage that offers both short-term and long-term positive effects on one’s health and well-being. The Craniosacral system consists of membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds and protects that brain and spinal cord. It extends from the bones of the skull, face and mouth (cranium) down to the sacrum (tailbone). Craniosacral massage can “improve the functioning of the Central Nervous System, dissipate the negative effects of stress, and enhance one’s health and resistance to disease.” (http://www.massagetherapy.com)
The first time I had Craniosacral work performed on me, I was actually a bit frustrated. I get massages often and I very much enjoy deep tissue work. When the therapist was performing the Craniosacral work, I couldn’t feel a THING…at first. With this type of massage the therapist often applies less than 5 grams of pressure to assist the body’s natural movement of fluid within the Craniosacral system. Then, it happened. I began to feel little creaks and twitches in different areas of my body. I questioned my therapist about this and she smiled and said, “Your bones are shifting.” The crazy thing was, she would be holding my neck and she was shifting my hips!! It was incredible. It was after this Craniosacral session that she worked on my “subscap” area and was able to release the tension in the these muscles more easily and effectively than ever before. That night, I slept better than I had in ages, and I continued to feel my bones in my body shifting for the next 3 days!
Myofascial release is performed by applying three dimensional, sustained pressure and movement into the fascial system to eliminate fascial restrictions. Myofascial release can be an effective therapeutic approach in the relief of cervical pain, back pain, Fibromyalgia, scoliosis, neurological dysfunction, restriction of motion, chronic pain and headaches (http://www.massagetherapy.com)
Fascia is defined by Wikipedia as “an uninterrupted, three-dimensional web of tissue that extends from head to toe, from front to back, from interior to exterior. It is responsible for maintaining structural integrity; for providing support and protection; and acts as a shock absorber.” I like to think of it as the stringy white stuff that is on the outside of my chicken breasts when I am trimming them! =D
Overly tight fascia can cause a host of problems within the body, one of these being restricted muscle growth. If the fascia around the muscle is too tight, the muscle will not be able to expand, because it cannot “break through” the surrounding fascia. In this particular instance, myofascial release can help a person’s muscles grow if (However, if you are eating 2 meals a day and only doing bicep curls in the gym, I can pretty much guarantee you, it’s not your “overly tight fascia” keeping you from looking like Ronnie Coleman… nice try though).
Sports Massages are “designed to enhance athletic performance and recovery” and are useful pre-event, post-event or even to treat an injury. Pre-event massages are often performed on-site while the athlete is fully clothed to help increase blood flow and warm up the athlete’s muscles. Post-event, the sports massage is also typically performed on-site and again, over the athlete’s clothes. The purpose of this massage is to calm the athlete’s nervous system and to begin flushing toxins and waste out of the athlete’s body. This can help reduce recovery time and often allows the athlete to get back to training much sooner than if they had not received the massage (http://www.massagetherapy.com).
As I mentioned before, these are only 5 of the most popular types of massages being performed in the Western part of the world. There are several hundred other types of massage with different benefits that may be appropriate for you. Before you receive a massage, you should check with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough to have body work done and please make sure that the therapist is certified by a credible source. You will also want to talk to the therapist before the massage starts about your medical history, any body parts may be ailing you, and any other symptoms you may be having. You will also want to make sure that you come prepared with the proper payment type (many only take cash or check) and that you know their cancellation policy in case you must miss or change your appointment.
To find a Certified Massage Therapist in your area check this website: Find a Massage Therapist
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