Here’s WHY massage is an important body tonic
What happens when we push ourselves to the limit?
Massage therapy is now a mainstream health modality, deemed as an essential health service! Gone are the days where massage therapy is regarded as just a luxury.
In today’s society, ‘WE’ try to do X, Y and Z all at once, and push our mind and body to the limit. That may be fine for a while. But then the domino’s start to fall, as the pressure takes it’s toll.
I’m not just talking about a physical sport or job either, I’m talking about the whole picture, the way we do life, the way we live in general.
There are more physical, mental, and emotional demands on our body due to a multitude of reasons. This compound load contributes to muscle tightness and tension, which may cause a variety of ill effects such as headaches, migraines, insomnia, anxiety, depression and chronic pain. There are so many contributing factors. Poor posture, or overwork, anxiety or mental stress.. and there we have it – a double edged sword.
Muscle tightness causing issues, and issues causing muscle tightness.
Chronic conditions take their toll
Even chronic conditions or ailments can take a toll on certain muscles in the body.
For example, with asthma, I often find that the sternocleidomastoid (front neck muscle aka the SCM) is tight, as well as the diaphragm and thoracic area. This is due to the shallow breathing capacity which causes these muscles to tighten over time.
Specialised techniques that help to release the sterno (SCM) and stretch out the diaphragm muscle can really help with breathing (this is so taken for granted)!
We’re not ever-ready batteries! Take time to chill.
Just like you get your car serviced, it’s important to service your body. Let’s face it, we’re not ‘every-ready’ batteries. Massage therapy helps us recharge. It literally lessens the load on our bodies that we carry about on a day to day basis.
The kneading the muscle tissue in remedial massage therapy creates better balance in the body. Manually smoothing out all the tight knotty, lumpy bits allows fresh blood into the area, and helps to warm the muscle tissue while calming and centering the nervous system.
Massage therapy makes you feel better on a day to day basis, helps to prevent physical injury and lower chronic stress.
Simply put, it helps you to feel relaxed, calm and pure ‘ZEN’! Massage can be as good as a mini holiday.
What to expect from a massage?
The word massage means “friction of kneading” in French, “to touch, feel or handle” in Arabic, and in Greek it means “to handle, touch, to work with the hands, to knead dough”.
Massage is a ‘hands on’ body work therapy – no gadgets here! We typically work with you, asking a questions for feedback on pressure, pain location etc.
This is especially important for a deep tissue massage or remedial massage. A common way to get feedback is to ask you to rate the ‘trigger point’ or pressure on a PAIN scale from 1 – 10! Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not trying to create pain, but sometimes a level of pressure is required to elicit a healing response, relaxing the tissue and bringing balance to the area.
If RELAXATION is what you’re after, there should be no pain WHAT-SO-EVER. This style of massage is completely different. Relaxation massages are more rhythmic, flowing and lighter. They are great for stress management, exhaustion, or for the girls (that time of the month).
In a typical massage appointment you will be asked a few questions such as:
- What brings you here today?
- Are there any medical issues, medications, injuries, hospitalisations, concurrent allied therapy treatments?
- Are you undertaking any sports/ activities?
After this, your massage therapist will provide you with a brief overview, and/ or assessment and provide instructions in terms of positioning on the massage table. A full body massage may be indicated or massage just focusing on a specific area due to an acute or chronic issue.
What is the difference between Sports and Remedial massage?
The techniques used in sports massage and remedial massage can be very similar. The main difference between the two massages is the use of the technique and the way they are applied to the body.
Sports massage is focused on reducing tension in the soft tissue that may have tightened up or become out of balance due to the nature of the physical sport. It’s generally a more active massage style, which may require working with the client to release muscular tension.
The timing of the massage relative to the sport is also important. For example, when is the main event, or training days? Do you want the massage as pre or post therapy for event preparation or recovery.
Pre-Event Massage Therapy
In a pre-event sports massage, the techniques do not usually involve deep tissue. Especially since this can create a ‘detox’ response of the muscle, and potentially make the client feel a little sore or sluggish. Whilst this generally clears within 24-48 hours, its not ideal if your main event is the next day.
Post Event Massage for Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
On the other hand, post event may also not involve deep tissue due to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), injury or dehydration of the muscle tissue. DOMS typically occur after intense workout or sport and particularly if different muscles have been recruited so the microtears and lactic acid build-up cause muscle pain and generalised soreness.
The best way to help a case of ‘DOMS’ is to drink plenty of water (and electrolytes), to properly hydrate, and have an Epsom salt bath, or infrared/ normal sauna to make you sweat. Another way is to dunk yourself in the ocean (no wetsuit) so as to cool down the muscles which shunts away the blood, and once you warm up fresh blood comes into the area. This creates a kind of vascular gymnastics.
Remedial or Sports Massage for Acute Injury
Remedial massage is often associated with helping injuries. The nature of the injury will determine the type of treatment applied.
If the injury is a sprain, and inflammation is present, the area is usually avoided for massage therapy until the inflammation goes down. This goes for any area where there is ligament or tendon inflammation. However, the muscles surrounding the area can be massaged to help relieve the tension on the tendon.
Remedial or Sports Massage for Chronic Injury
Massage is a fantastic adjunct to help the repair and healing of any muscular-skeletal issues that are chronic in nature.
Basically, a gentle massage helps to relieve tightness, and improve the local blood flow to the area. Improving blood flow will provide the nutrients into the healing zone, and help detoxification of the tissue.
Bringing balance back into the muscular system naturally takes pressure off the skeletal system and helps in the rehabilitation process.
My personal story and why I believe Remedial Massage is essential for body maintenance!
I stumbled across remedial massage decades ago, way before I trained as a remedial massage therapist. At the time I was having nightmares of zimmer frames because I couldn’t walk. I hobbled around at work, and looked like a broken down shopping trolley – you know the ones with the bung wheel. Basically my piriformis was locked, so my glutes couldn’t fire, and just wouldn’t work.
I thought I needed a hip replacement or something… and how could this be? I was only in my 30’s.
Eventually I tried remedial massage and it fixed my issue. I was hooked. I wanted to learn these skills so that I could help people. This propelled forward my health and wellness education. And thank goodness for that, because I love what I do today!
Here’s the thing. We often have clients come in, and they’ve been right through the medical system before ending up in our practice. It’s human nature, to think the worst. Massage therapy is often the last peg on the ladder, and yet, it is often what does the trick! MRI’s, Scans and blood tests definitely have their place! It’s great to get a birds eye view of whats going on in the body. It’s important to have a good check up. In fact I’ll suggest this if thing just aren’t stacking up.
But what I’m saying is that if regular massage treatment was a part of your holistic health plan, your body maintenance would be covered. You probably won’t be thinking the worst possible scenario.
The benefits of remedial massage
Clinical Trial – Massage does help lower back pain
It’s interesting that lower back pain is a common issue. And although remedial massage in some way or form has been going on for over 5000 years, today we have a clinical trial to back up the obvious. The trial shows that remedial massage works to help reduce chronic lower back pain.
Typical areas to release in helping lower back pain include the quadratus loborum, deep erector spinae, muscle attachment areas, fascial release, glutes AND those quadriceps! However, that being said, we all present differently, so each remedial massage is tailored to the individual.
You can read the full study here (pdf): Study – Massage Therapy Helps Lower Back Pain
Massage therapy helps chronic headaches
Another common complaint that we treat in our practice is chronic or acute tension headaches.
There are many triggers for a headaches – water intake, blood sugar issues, stress and tension, hormonal imbalance or emotional trauma.
Remedial massage therapy focuses on softening and releasing the muscles that insert into the head. Helping to create neck and head rotation and movement. Sometime jaw clenching or teeth grinding (bruxism) can cause tremendous tension and bring on a headache. Massage techniques help to reduce muscle tightness that is often a trigger for headache.
A recent clinical trial has shown that by releasing the neck muscles at the front (the sternocleidomastoid and scalene) helps to lower tension and provide relief from tension headaches.
You can read the study that confirms techniques we use in our practice helps to reduce headaches here: Remedial Massage Therapy Interventions Including and Excluding Sternocleidomastoid, Scalene, Temporalis, and Masseter Muscles for Chronic Tension Type Headaches: a Case Series (pdf)
Massage therapy helps anxiety and stress by lowering cortisol
Massage therapy helps to reduce mental stress by physiologically reducing the level of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is our stress hormone – our fight or flight reactive hormone. Gentle relaxation massage supports the nervous system and helps to flick that switch from an alarm state to a relaxed state. By doing this, naturally the ‘threat’ has dissipated and the body starts to relax, so hence cortisol levels drop. In today’s society with so many external stresses, the sustained elevated cortisol impacts blood sugar which contributes to weight gain and other ailments such as anxiety, blood pressure, and immune system impacts.
A study from 2016 shows: Massage Therapy Reduces the Stress Hormones
Massage therapy helps lower blood pressure
It’s interesting to also note that massage therapy can help to reduce blood pressure. This is likely due to reduction stress in the body and promoting relaxation. Stress is such a major contributor to so many disease processes. I love that a simple massage can have such great impacts on the body creating healing and calmness. (See the article about stress above, again.)
How often should you get a massage?
This is a common question we get asked! And there is no absolute rule. It really depends on your issue, level of impact, and what’s going on in your life.
Generally, for acute conditions, we suggest 3 massages in a row. By this we mean weekly, or fortnightly. The reason being, the benefits of each massage compounds on the previous one. Overall, you get a better result with repetition.
Muscles have a memory, and if they’ve been stuck in a position for some time, they often revert back. The nerves innovate the muscles, so if your actions are the same (e.g. in the same job / chair / sport), then the issues (especially if it is posture related) may hold on for a while. Treatments in close succession really allows for the body to adjust to the new positioning more quickly. To allow the issue to resolve more naturally.
After the initial phase of a few treatments in close succession, a maintenance plan is discussed. For chronic conditions or tightness, 4-6 treatments may be required, to literally ‘chip away’ at the layers, bringing about balance, reducing knots and tightness, and allowing better freedom of movement to ensue. These may be monthly, 6 weekly or even 8 weekly depending on the body’s response, lifestyle impacts and the need.
Of course, for general good health, relaxation or simply to ‘tune-up’ a regular monthly or bi-monthly massage can be beneficial.
Working with Chiro’s and Physio’s
Massage therapy works in very well with chiropractic care and physiotherapy. At our practice we have a strong referral network with allied health practitioners who we trust our patients to. Together we communicate and get results for the client.
We help to save you time and money by utilising our cross-referral networks where warranted. This will help you get back on track as quickly as possible.
Post Treatment Plan
A post massage treatment plan is also very important. It empowers you to get the most out of your treatment for sustained improvement and healing.
We advise clients on certain stretches, or other important self-care strategies to do at home in-between treatments. This may include use of heat and ice, use of spiky balls or foam rollers, specific exercises!
Ready to start living a healthier life?
Massage therapy is one of the most effective ways to bring about balance and reduce pain in the body. The massage services we offer at our Dee Why practice on the Northern Beaches include
- Remedial Massage
- Deep Tissue Massage
- Sports Massage
- Relaxation Massage
- Aromatherapy Massage
- Pregnancy Massage