Pain creates a vicious cycle. Pain leads to muscle tension, reduced circulation, and restricted movement, which in turn lead to more pain. Massage therapy can play an important role in breaking this cycle.
Muscles contract around any painful site to protect the area. If pain is resolved quickly, muscles relax. If pain persists, muscles can become habitually tight. Sometimes tight muscles press on nerves, causing tingling, numbness, or more pain. Massage helps by stretching tight muscles and by stimulating the nervous system to relax muscle tension.
Tight muscles reduce circulation, letting waste products accumulate, which can leave you feeling fatigued and sore. Plus waste products can irritate nerves, causing pain to spread. Massage releases contracted muscles and increases circulation. Also, as massage relaxes the nervous system, blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow. Waste products are flushed away and replaced with oxygen and nutrients.
Areas with poor circulation often develop trigger points- highly irritable spots that refer pain, tingling, or other sensations to other places in the body. Trigger points respond well to specific massage techniques.
Muscle Shortening and Restricted Movement
Eventually, the body lays down connective tissue in any contracted area with poor circulation. While helpful for healing injuries, this natural reaction can “glue” muscles and their connective tissue coverings into a shortened state. The stretching and kneading of massage softens and lengthens connective tissue.
Irritating waste products, painful trigger points, and shortened muscles make even simple actions difficult and tiring. As your capacity for movement and exercise decreases, you lose the most important means for maintaining good circulation throughout your body, risking pain in new areas.
Massage helps restore normal movement by releasing trigger points, removing waste products, and stretching shortened muscles. Also, because you feel better after a massage, you may have renewed energy and motivation for physical activity.
For massage to be really effective, you need to set up a regular schedule–certainly once a week at first, and then possibly less often as you respond to the massage. Remember, it takes time.
Do you need a massage?