5 benefits of massage therapy that you may not know

Massage therapy can help everything from chronic pain to poor posture, yet many people remain in the dark about the benefits of massage therapy and how it can improve their overall quality of life.

While many people assume registered massage therapists (RMTS) work solely on massaging muscles, this is a common misconception. RMTs are trained in human anatomy and physiology and have a good understanding of the different structures and systems within the human body and how they work together. Remember, getting a massage from an RMT should not be confused with going to the spa.

Here are 5 benefits of massage therapy that you may not have known:

1. RMTs work with the nervous system to relieve muscle pain

While RMTs do work on muscles, this is only a small part of their work. They also treat connective tissues and the body’s lymphatic network, and work with the nervous system to help relieve muscles that are tight and sore because of an over-stimulated nervous pathway between the brain and the muscle fibres.

This relief comes by exploiting two microscopic sensory organs (muscle spindle fibres and Golgi tendon organs) located in different parts of the muscle and the associated nervous reflexes.

2. Massage therapy can treat postural dysfunction and counteract chronic sitting

For most of us, working consists of sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day. The problem with this is that we lose focus on our posture and our shoulders tend to slump forward. This can lead to a weak and unsupportive core and pain and discomfort in the upper back.

While a back massage does feel great, the key to successful correction of pain brought on by poor posture is to focus on the deeper parts of the treatment such as releasing the tighter anterior chest muscles through registered message therapy.

3. Massage therapy is effective in rehabilitating a wide range of injuries

While the most injuries seen by massage therapists are standard muscle strains due to overuse or acute trauma, there are many more injures that an RMT can help rehabilitate. These include, but are not limited to, whiplash associated disorders caused by motor vehicle accidents and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

4. Massage therapy can help significantly reduce or eliminate chronic headaches

When dealing with migraines, tension or cluster headaches, massage therapy isn’t often the first method of treatment considered by most people for relief — although it should be. RMTs are extremely skilled at alleviating these issues in just a few sessions.

Much of the time, there is an unapparent amount of tension being held at the base of the skull and downward compression along the cervical spine. Over time, the soft-tissue structures here become irritated and compress neurovascular bundles that supply the brain, resulting in chronic headaches. A treatment consisting of deep suboccipital and cervical release, gentle traction to decompress the vertebral column and a good stretch of the neck’s muscles are the keys to reducing and, most of the time, eliminating irritation.

5. Massage therapy is just as beneficial for mental health as it is physical health

In addition to aiding the healing process of the physical structures in the body, massage therapy will almost always have a positive effect on mental health. This is achieved by reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous pathways while increasing the firing of parasympathic nervous activity. This effect alone has a substantial cascading influence over hormones, blood pressure and heart rate, thus attributing relief to chronic stress, anxiety and even depression.

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*Massage therapy services are only available at the Copeman Healthcare Centre in Calgary and Edmonton.