When you mention the word “massage” most people immediately think of a person with strong hands manipulating the muscles on their back, shoulders, legs etc. This is certainly accurate, and it feels very good. But there’s a slightly different level to the massage idea that, if performed properly, can deliver significant physical benefits beyond relaxed muscles.

Just about everyone would agree that massage works, with thousands of individuals reporting positive benefits. But add the “therapy” concept and you have a process that can reduce pain, in addition to offering a number of other possible benefits. When you use massage therapy, you are seeking more than just feeling good. You’re seeking help to feel better.

Situations

Many people seek massage therapy for medical reasons, including relief from general stiffness or sore muscles. Correct therapy methods can reduce or eliminate muscle spasm, migraines and, in the right hands, may hasten recovery from injury. In fact, more than half the people in one study stated they got a recommendation from their primary physician to “get a massage.”

In many situations, people are increasingly looking for massage therapy in a medical setting, not just in a massage parlor. These new locations include chiropractic offices, physical therapy or orthopedic settings. The change is one of perception. More people now recognize the benefits of traditional treatment methods, as opposed to surgery and prescription medicines. They may use a combination of physical therapy, massage and safe medications to achieve the desired results.

Massage therapy can help the healing process on the cellular level, according to the newest research. According to tests conducted before and after workout sessions, people who receive some level of massage therapy benefit in terms of cell growth and energy production. Using Swedish and deep-tissue techniques also reduced inflammation levels. Basically, the evidence points toward massage therapy as a way to improve recovery after injury or exercise.

Beyond Relaxation

Of course, most people experience relaxation following massage, because the relaxation response is involuntary. It’s a predictable result as the nervous system and muscles respond to touch and technique. But it’s also possible for patients to experience other positive physical effects when pressure is applied to soft tissue. The benefits can be both physical and emotional.

When you have an experienced massage therapist perform the correct techniques, you will probably experience a noticeable reduction in heart rate and breathing rate. This method can also lower blood pressure for short periods and stress can be significantly reduced. This may have something to do with the serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin is the chemical that produces positive effects on thoughts and emotions.

Studies also show increased circulation in the lymph system and in overall blood flow, as well as positive effects on tendons, connective tissue and ligaments, in addition to the muscle tissue itself. Improved circulation in the blood vessels can increase delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells in muscle tissue. This can result in more efficient muscle function, as well as help the body get rid of waste.