The benefits of massage fall broadly into three categories - physiological (how it effects the body), psychological (how it effects the mind) and reflex (responses regulated by the autonomic nervous system).
However, it is important to remember that the psychological and physical components of health are intrinsically linked. Consequently, greater psychological well being resulting from a massage has an important role to play in the treatment of any injury in the same way that reducing acute or chronic pain can improve state of mind.
Muscle tightness is one of the primary reasons people experience soft tissue pain. Muscles can become hypertonic (tight) due to excess neuromuscular stimulation which may occur after an injury or due to postural distortions. This heightened state of stimulation can create a cycle of pain-spasm-pain within the muscle. Massage can break this cycle reducing the amount of sensory information being sent to the nervous system thus reducing pain. Pressure applied to muscles during a massage can also help reset the muscle spindles (one of the body's primary proprioceptors) allowing muscles to relax. Continual reinforcement of reduced muscle tension can re-train patterns of motor signals in the body establishing new pathways reducing chronic pain.
Massage enhances the circulation of blood and lymph. This encourages healing by replenishing nutrients and oxygen around the cells and speeding up the removal of tissue debris, toxins and waste products. Massage can also mobilise connective tissues (such fascia, tendons and ligaments) which have adhered to adjacent structures and break down excessive scar tissue which can impede the proper healing process.
The power of touch with therapeutic intent has a positive effect on many individuals but is extremely difficult to measure through robust scientific research. Consequently there is little scientific evidence to quantify the psychological effects of massage but the most commonly reported effect after a massage treatment is one of relaxation and an improved sense of well being. This makes massage a positive addition to a treatment plan for stress related illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
A reflex effect from a massage is produced from sensory signals relating to information such as touch, pressure or temperature causing a variety of responses regulated by the autonomic nervous system. These include having a positive effect on immune system function, reducing stress hormone levels, lowering blood pressure, suppression of pain sensation coupled with release of beta-endorphins from the brain. More research is still needed in this area as it is difficult to predict which massage techniques may produce which effects and variation from individual to individual.
Neuromuscular Therapy and Sports Massage are more similar than they are different. Both are types of Orthopaedic Massage used to treat conditions resulting from any number of activities such as work, sports or accidents. Where treatment modalities are essentially the same, Sports Massage requires specific knowledge of the physiology of sports injuries and Neuromuscular Therapy focuses more on Trigger Points and Trigger Point referral patterns. Both types of massage require the ability to match the condition to the treatment, based on a physiological rational. Sports Massage and Neuromuscular Therapy are based on a system comprising of assessment, treatment technique variety, knowledge of conditions and physiology, understanding the physiological effects of techniques and rehabilitation protocols.
Dry needling is the insertion of a sterile, single use, acupuncture needle into a myofascial trigger point within a muscle.
Dry needling stimulates the body to modify its response to, and perception of, pain. The exact mechanism is not yet fully understood but there is a growing body of scientific evidence to suggest that inserting a needle has a positive effect on the electrical and chemical communications in the nervous system. This includes inhibiting the transmission of pain signals to the spinal cord and stimulating the release of pain relieving chemicals from the brain.
Generally needle insertion is pain free but it can produce a very brief pain response often including a twitch. This is a good sign of the body producing a therapeutic response to the treatment. During treatment people may experience limb heaviness, a sensation of relaxation or drowsiness. After treatment muscle soreness maybe felt for 24-48 hours.
Dry needling is very safe and only individually packed, single use, sterile needles are used. Side effects are rare but occasionally a small amount of bleeding or a small bruise may occur at the insertion site. Dry needling is not a suitable treatment for everyone, for example with clients with some bleeding disorder or people on certain types of medication.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese technique using needles to increase the flow of Qi (energy) along meridians within the body correcting underlying imbalances and so improving health. Dry needling acts on nerves and muscles reducing pain in the body.
This is where a small current is passed through the needles stimulating the muscle. This enhances the effects of dry needling. The current is turned on very slowly and it feels like the muscle is pulsing. It is safe and pain free. It cannot be used if you are pregnant, have a heart condition or a pacemaker or epilepsy.
The lymphatic system supports the blood circulatory system in the human body by transporting and removing excess ﬂuid and waste that the blood capillaries cannot carry away from tissues of the body. Lymphatic vessels and nodes provide channels through which this excess ﬂuid is cleaned, ﬁltered and then returned to the blood system.
Blood carries oxygen, food and water to every cell of the body. These products are carried from the blood capillary to the cells in interstitial ﬂuid (tissue ﬂuid). This ﬂuid circulates among all the cells delivering nutrients and collecting waste. Not all this ﬂuid can return to the blood capillary, so excess ﬂuid and large waste molecules, fragments of damaged cells, foreign matter and micro-organisms are picked up by lymphatic capillaries which have larger pores and lower internal pressure than blood capillaries. This ﬂuid, now called lymph, is ﬁltered and cleaned by lymph nodes, which contains white blood cells, and is then returned to the circulatory system via the subclavian vein.
Lymph vessels open into lymphatic nodes which are strategically placed throughout the body. Lymphatic nodes are made of lymphatic tissue which contains many types of white blood cells. Phagocytes engulf and destroy harmful waste and bacteria, leucocytes and lymphocytes produce antibodies and new lymphocytes are produced here as well. The lymph nodes ﬁlter the lymph ﬂuid and remove and destroy harmful micro-organisms, dead tissue cells, large protein molecules and toxic substances preventing them reaching the bloodstream and causing conditions such as septicaemia.
MLD uses light, rhythmic, repetitive strokes stimulating the natural contractions of the lymphatic vessels, enhancing lymph circulation and increasing the distribution of leukocyte (white blood cells) throughout the body. This has the effect of boosting the immune system and cleaning the tissue ﬂuid which surrounds all the cells of the body.
MLD can reduce pain and areas of swelling/water retention and improve the appearance and health of the skin. LDM is deeply relaxing stimulating the body's parasympathetic reaction where heart rate slows, breathing and muscles relax allowing all the organs of the body to function most efﬁciently. This makes MLD highly beneﬁcial for people with high stress levels or anxiety.