Massage Therapy: How it helps

Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own. – Bruce Lee

The greatest benefit of massage therapy is in helping individuals connect with their body, mind and even spirit to awaken and develop their own means of management.

There are many techniques and methods of massage. In a nutshell I feel they all offer varying degrees of relaxing our nerves, mobilizing and allowing reorganization of restrictive fibrous tissue and most of all enhance circulation. The last being the conduit for vitality and healing.

Massage, as a form of manual therapy, can relax and sedate the body; it can also be an active stimulant. As a means of supporting and nurturing the body, massage can fortify the body’s immune system to heal many and at minimum, support the fight against all diseases. By support I mean to comfort and uplift a patient’s sense of wellness. Touch is a powerful tool. As parents, we touch and embrace our children to comfort their pain. As therapists, we touch and support patients to comfort their pain. With proper support, our immune system can do what is does best to heal. Therapists should not only do but also share knowledge to help patients understand, overcome and continue healing independently; knowledge is power! In the process of active stimulation, massage moderate congested or scarred tissue and align body positions to facilitate healing. Moderation can be intense and even aggressive when congestion and scarring is severe. Liken to surgery which cut and realign, massage can friction, mobilize and reposition without breaking the skin. This is also like intense physical training which then requires proper recovery in order to become better.

With proper knowledge and skill, all this can be achieved by the individual. Props can be helpful in self massage such as in with foam rolling and the use of balls or other tools.

In our modern world, people’s connection have been driven outwardly. Our need and dependency for material goods and external stimulation has grown exponentially over the years. This disconnection is greater than ever and which I believe contributes greatly not only to disease but in recovery and the maintenance of good health.

The applications of healthcare including massage therapy have striven to become evidence based and scientific. This science frequently ask for double blinded studies. But massage therapy as a healing art is difficult to described in words and more so in a double blinded manner.

Massage, as is Life, is very much a complex interaction of complementary, interconnected, and interdependent duality of elements that flow on a continuum. The concept of Yin and Yang in Ancient Chinese Philosophy attempts to explain this complexity.

To optimize health, one must understand and be critical of his/her own life style in choosing what is best for oneself. One need to excel and grow as well as restore in a balanced manner. In athletics, there is an increase understanding that recovery after hard training makes us better. Hard training alone simply causes bodily damage.

Massage Therapy helps one connect with one’s body to realize, understand and support the process of healing.

Don’t simply believe in what you are told or what you have read because it comes from a source of authority. Through practice and experience, accept and make your own what is right, sensible and helpful to you and discard all that which is not.This is what I have learned in Vipassana meditation.

I have found the best way to support healing is to meditate. For those new to meditation, focusing and concentrating on oneself and to relax is a difficult task. Our sense of control is to be continuously doing. This burns us out. But to heal, we must undo. Massage can guide us to meditate.

Healing is achieved through the application of knowledge in nurturing and supporting the body.

Life is uniquely challenging for everyone. There is no magic cure all; well-being and fortified health comes only with effort. Health should not simply be the absence of disease; it should reflect happiness, vitality and optimal physical function.

Fitness can be seen as super health and greater resistance to disease achieve only through the acquisition of knowledge and the arduous expense of effort and dedication in applying such knowledge. A surgeon can help reposition and align your tissue for better recovery but you still have to do the recovering.

Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

– Bruce Lee

My interpretation and understanding of the Chinese words “Kung Fu,” training in the martial arts is “suffering in work.” In this we learn to arduously fine tune our body and in the end achieve our best.

Massage Therapy facilitate building the connection between the body and mind. In our modern life, the human mind is very much externalized by the bombardment of outside stimuli. Connecting with our inner being is essential to developing better health, wellness and fitness, to healing.

Most people I have encountered who are seeking therapy are dealing with pain of some sort; pain that is often the result of the wears and tears in life: physical, emotional, and chemical impacts. Lifestyle have been considered as the pivotal in the cause of disease by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the World Health, non-communicable diseases were the leading cause of death and are directly associated with lifestyle: tobacco and alcohol use, diet and physical inactivity.  Until recent tthe recent Covid-19 outbreak, deaths from infections were very much under control.

Our genetics and lifestyle dispose some of us to experience more pain than others for a variety of reasons. Our perception of pain can can be moderated by our acquired knowledge and skills to cope. A wise friend I met said, “you can’t choose the cards (genes) you are dealt but you can choose how to play them.”

Much of our pain is the result of our habits; our prolong static postures, our repetitive movement; our anxieties, fears and apprehensions. Severity of pain can also be affected by diet. Some evidence suggest meat products introduce more inflammatory factors into our system and cause pain. I know first hand many foods contribute to my experience of gouty attacks, indigestion and gastric re-flux.

Our muscles are like sponges. They have many capillaries, small vessels like pores, that allow for effective blood flow. Tension in muscles cause compression and occlusion to circulation. Tension may compress, strangle and impact the well-being of nerves and other organs. Poor circulation will affect tissue health and cause pain. Imagine holding a fist for hours on end or being stuck under a heavy object; you will experience fatigue and eventual burning pain due to restriction in blood flow. The business of life heightens our nervous activation so much that many of us grind our teeth at night.  The evidence is in the worn enamel. Many of us may clench our entire body while sleeping; the evidence is in morning stiffness and pain. The extent of nervous tension has become a habit many accept as normal. The solution is simple, learn to meditate and relax; let go of the tension; simple but not easy. Becoming abnormal can be good thing.

Tissue damage results in the release of chemicals that alert the body of change.  Pain is subject to the interpretation of experiencing such change. Fear and a lack of knowledge may compound a negative experience and give rise to a greater sense of pain. Elements of our diet that present a higher level of oxidants (harmful chemicals) in our blood and those that hinder our blood flow can also give rise to a greater experience of pain. But change is not always bad. A change for the better is good but that change can also cause pain reflecting too much too soon. Healing requires time and patience.

The fundamental goal of massage therapy is to facilitate and improve circulation: mechanically on the skins surface and in the depths of the tissue by mobilizing and stretching the connective tissue that is continuous throughout the body. The mechanical stimuli can create space and move fluids to allow for better circulation, help reduce pain and promote healing by mobilizing (pumping) blood through damage tissue.

If tension is primarily from tense habits and anxiety, the approach in massage is to help identify and relax areas of tension as well as to sedate the body as a whole. Touch brings attention inward and to the areas being touched. Drawing ones attention to tension helps one relax that tension.

If tension is from vigorous and repetitive activation, as in sports or labour, there will likely be associated tissue thickening with potential scarring and inflammation.  Imagine rubbing you hands together all day long. If you work hard with your hands you will see the evidence of callouses and potential blisters and tears. Vigorous and intense muscle activity can potentiate the same under the skin between tissue structures. Such condition can make massage very uncomfortable but necessary. Deep tissue massage at a tolerable intensity in such case can help break down adhesion. The goals is to encourage dissociation at the upper limits of tolerance for maximum efficiency, then rest to recover, learn better mechanics and become better.

It is not ideal to elicit resistance and tension. This will be counter productive and fail in the intent to relax. There is the exception of working with those frequenting intense and physically destructive activities; those with addictive, aggressive, intense personalities … typically the competitive athlete. For athletes, there is a low threshold to push them beyond their tolerance for pain; they do it all the time in training and competition. But it is important to stay within their ability to manage this pain. The physical demands to an athlete’s body is often so intense, widespread adhesion and inflammation is common . To help with efficient and rapid recovery, the intent is demolish the restrictions, rapidly stimulate circulation and promote restructuring. Actively break down blockages and passively support the body to restructure them. This is exactly what athletes SHOULD do in training. But many don’t recognize the importance of rest and restructuring, that this makes them better. Many only focus on intensity.

  Hot/cold contrasting can stimulate blood flow and help with the restructuring and the healing.

Athletes often have better than average discipline to embark on recovery measures like regular and frequent self massage, rolling and stretching. The best athletes are simply genetically gifted to heal quickly.

If tension is from over thinking, prolong habits in static postures, anxiousness or emotional stress, it is essential for the therapeutic approach to be gentle, comforting, supportive and encouraging. Craniosacral Therapy, Visceral Manipulation and Swedish/relaxation massage are the ideal approaches.

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