CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM - The Cardiovascular system consists of the heart and the blood vessels, the main components of the circulatory system. Massage improves blood circulation by dilating (opening) the blood vessels. Blood pressure is decreased up to 40 minutes after a massage, which creates feelings of relaxation. Massage increases the quantity of functioning red blood cells, improving the blood’s oxygen carrying capability. The increase in volume of red blood cells creates increased oxygen saturation in the blood. White blood cell count is also increased, enabling the body to better protect itself against disease.
LYMPHATIC AND IMMUNE SYSTEM - Massage promotes lymph circulation, the process of detoxifying the cells in the human body. This process helps remove waste from the lymph system and the body's cells. Lymph circulation helps reduce swelling and aids in weight lose by reducing fluid retention. Lymphocyte count (types of white blood cells) is increased, thus helping to support immune functions and fighting off illnesses.
SKIN - The skin tissue is the largest organ in the body. Massage improves the skin’s condition, texture and tone by bringing added nutrients to the skin. When massaged, the superficial blood vessels dilate (open up) and circulation increases to facilitate transporting additional nutrients to the outer layers of the skin. Massage can also reduce superficial scar tissue formation and adherence (attachment) of the skin to underlying soft tissue, thereby decreasing the intensity of scar tissue.
NERVOUS AND ENDOCRINE SYSTEM - Massage promotes relaxation and reduces stress and anxiety by activating the parasympathetic (the calmer state of the) nervous system. Massage increases dopamine and serotonin levels, neurotransmitting chemicals that reduce stress and depression. Massage reduces pain by increasing blood circulation and stimulating the release of endorphins, chemicals that reduce pain and foster feelings of tranquility.
MUSCLES - Massage reduces muscular tension, restrictions, tightness, stiffness and spasms by relaxing the muscles through direct pressure. Low back pain and sciatica can be drastically reduced by massage therapy. Direct pressure through massage enhances blood circulation, thus increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients available to the muscles. This enhanced circulation reduces muscle fatigue and post exercise soreness. A fatigued muscle recuperates five times faster after a massage when compared to rest alone. When muscular tension is reduced, the range of motion is increased, allowing for enhanced movement. Massage increases flexibility and tones weak muscles.
DIGESTIVE SYSTEM - Massage activates the parasympathetic (the calmer state of the) nervous system, which stimulates digestion and evacuation of the colon. Massage supports increased peristaltic (contractions) activity aiding in the digestive processes and relieves constipation.
URINARY SYSTEM - By activating the lymphatic system, massage eliminates toxins through the kidneys and urinary system. Massage activates urinary output by stimulating minute dormant blood cells. Increasing water intake after a massage supports thus increase of urinary output.
MISCELLANEOUS EFFECTS OF MASSAGE - The calming and nurturing effects of massage therapy reduce feelings of fatigue and increase vigor. Individuals report improved and deeper sleep patterns, along with increased feelings of being rested in the morning. Massage has been shown to reduce job related and post-traumatic stress, improves mood, and decreases feelings of anger. Other benefits of massage therapy are reduced touch aversion and decreased touch sensitivity. Emotional stress and intensification of mental alertness grow through the therapeutic relationship consisting of attention, acceptance, and caring touch.
The following is a partial list of specific conditions that can benefit from Therapeutic Massage:
Source of massage benefits taken from: Susan G. Salvo, Massage Therapy: Principles and Practice (St. Louis, MO: Elsevier, 2003), 87-93.