Massage is an ancient healing art with enormous benefits for all the systems of the body, some of which are outlined below.
The nervous system is profoundly influenced by the application of massage. The effects of massage may be soothing and sedative, providing relief from nervous irritability. Disorders such as insomnia, tension, headaches and other stress-related conditions respond to the healing power of touch as peace and harmony returns to the troubled mind. Alternatively, the effects of massage on the nerves may be stimulating, promoting an increase in the activity of the muscles, vessels and glands governed by them. It is invaluable in cases of lethargy and fatigue.
The muscular system derives enormous benefits. Muscles maintain a balance in relaxing and contracting. Some massage movements relax and stretch the muscles and soft tissues of the body, reducing muscular tension and cramp. Fibrous tissues, adhesions and old scar tissue can be broken down and cleansed of waste deposits. As muscles contract, toxic products are eliminated. Other movements produce the contraction of muscles promoting good muscle tone. Muscle fatigue and stiffness caused by overactivity, and the resulting build-up of toxic substances in the muscles, is reduced by muscular contraction and relaxation.
The skeletal system is strengthened by using massage. Bone is indirectly affected by massage. Improvements to the circulation of blood and lymph in the muscles lead to better circulation in the underlying bones, benefiting their nutrition and growth. Stiffness of the joints, and pains resulting from conditions such as arthritis, are reduced providing comfort and ease of movement.
The circulatory system also benefits from the action of massage. It takes the pressure off the arteries and veins, accelerating the flow of blood through the system providing relief for poor circulation and cardiac problems. The heartbeat strengthens, the rate of the heartbeat decreases and high blood pressure is reduced.
The lymphatic system is stimulated and the flow of lymph is accelerated throughout the system. As the massage strokes are performed, the waste and poisonous substances which have accumulated in our overstressed bodies are rapidly eliminated. When we sustain injuries, there is often a great deal of oedema (swelling) which should be dispersed into the lymphatic circulation. Massage can empty the lymph vessels and allow the swelling to disperse. If this fluid is not moved on, it becomes semi-solid and thus is unable to pass into lymph vessels. Therefore, it sticks to the surrounding tissues (muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments) and forms what are known as ‘adhesions’. If adhesions form in a joint then movement will be restricted permanently.
The respiratory system responds as increased activity in the lungs is stimulated by massage. As the treatment proceeds, the breath slows and deepens. If necessary, mucus and bronchial secretions can be encouraged to leave the lungs by percussive movements on the back and over the lungs.
The digestive system benefits when massage promotes the peristaltic activity (wave-like motion) in the colon enhancing the elimination of faecal matter and combating constipation. It strengthens the muscular walls of the intestines and abdomen, and stimulates the secretion of digestive juices from the liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines. As well as helping the digestion and elimination of food, massage also increases absorption of digested foods.
The skin Both the activity and the nutrition of the skin benefit from massage. The sweat and sebaceous glands are stimulated, improving their function and ensuring the elimination of waste products. As dead skin cells are removed, pores are encouraged to remain open allowing increased skin respiration, suppleness and elasticity. Skin condition, texture and tone are greatly improved – the skin is healthy and glowing following a treatment.
The genito-urinary system The use of abdominal and back massage promotes the activity of the kidneys, which enhances the elimination of waste products and reduces fluid retention.
The reproductive system can also be improved. Abdominal and back massage can help to alleviate menstrual problems such as period pains, irregular menstruation, PMS and the symptoms of menopause.
Massage is an excellent preventive treatment essential for the maintenance of health and fitness. Prevention is always far better than cure. Nowadays people of all ages are increasingly considering natural therapies as a way to encourage an improved sense of well-being and as a means to a long, happy and harmonious life free of illness.