Swedish massage is best known as the relaxing massage with many different forms of strokes to manipulating of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. Anyone can benefit from this bodywork.

Massage & Bodywork Therapy What it can do for you!

What do you think of when someone says massage or bodywork? “Feeling better!”—that is the common thread with everyone. Whether you have been gardening, biking, swimming, camping, working, pre/post surgery, wanting to relax or just living life and feel a bit off you are experiencing a body that is not in balance. Massage and bodywork can help your body realign, restore and maintain full “working” potential and maintain homeostasis or balance.

When a practitioner places their hands on you they are physiologically affecting your body through mechanical, reflexive, and metabolic means. The shape and condition of the skin, fascia, muscle and connective tissues are affected mechanically through pressure and manipulation which enhances their movement and pliability. Think of a muscle spasm that you naturally poke and knead to relieve the discomfort. The nervous system responds reflexively to the massage stroke and changes the shape or condition of the tissues being addressed in addition to other areas of the body. For example, a person’s foot has a massage stroke applied to it, the neurons send a message to the hip flexor muscles to flex and pull the foot away from the touch. Metabolic effect is the combination of mechanical and reflexive responses and affects the whole body. For example, sustained touch on someone’s arm can warm the area that is being contacted and can also lower the person’s heart rate and blood pressure by stimulating a parasympathetic nervous system response. This metabolic response is important to the body’s balance as the circulatory and nervous systems transport blood, lymph, nutrients, hormones, neurological signals, and neurochemicals to and, from all part of the body.

The benefits of a massage and bodywork greatly vary from person to person based on health, lifestyle, stress levels, pathological conditions or injuries. However, it can be said that massage is beneficial to most people and that massage can have an enormous impact on the body’s ability to restore and maintain homeostasis or balance. Below is a list of the organ systems and what happens to each through a massage or bodywork.

Integumentary System
• Mechanically warms the skin with friction
• Increases circulation of blood and lymph within the skin
• Stimulates sebaceous (oil) gland secretions which make the skin more supple and pliable
• Stimulates sweat production which cools the body upon evaporation of sweat
• Breaks down fascial adhesions in the subcutaneous layer (superficial fascia) to restore circulation and movement to skin
Skeletal System
• Joint movement stimulates synovial fluid production which cushions and lubricates synovial joints (think knees!)
• Increases the health of skeleton by enhancing circulation of blood and lymph to and from the bones
Muscular System
• Increases nutrition and development of muscles by enhancing circulation of blood and lymph to and from the muscles
• Increases the excitability of muscles, making them more sensitive to nerve impulses
• Discourages the formation of lactic acid in muscles following physical exertion
• Accelerates recovery of fatigued muscles by reducing the lactic acid buildup
• Increases heat in and around muscles to loosen fasica and restore movement and circulation to the muscles
• Decreases hypertonicity in muscles and tendons
Nervous System
• Increases production of dopamine, a pain-relieving chemical involved in voluntary movement and clear thinking
• Increases production of endorphins, strong pain-relieving chemicals
• Increases production of enkephalins, strong pain relievers involved in sensory integration
• Increases secretion of oxytocin, a chemical that increases the pain threshold, stimulates smooth muscle contractions, decreases sympathetic nervous system activity, and has sedative effects
• Increases production of serotonin, which generally diminishes pain and appetite, regulates moods and sleep patterns, and stimulates smooth muscle contractions
• Decreases production of cortisol, a natural anti-inflammatory produced in response to stress that can accelerate tissue breakdown and prevent tissue repair
• Decreases substance P, a neurotransmitter that triggers the pain response
Circulatory System
• Increases circulation of blood and lymph in and around the area being addressed
• Reduces the symptoms of ischemia (lack of blood flow) by increasing circulation to capillaries with poor blood flow
• Increase permeability of capillary walls, enhancing delivery of oxygen and nutrients
• Sustained percussion can cause vasodilation deep within the area being addressed to increase blood flow
• Increases circulation of lymph to help the body fight germs
• Increases circulation of lymph which increases removal of metabolic waste
• Reduces edema
Respiratory System
• Encourages slow, deep contraction of the diaphragm which helps remove carbon dioxide waste via the lungs
• Percussive techniques can relieve chest congestion by loosening mucus within lungs
Digestive System
• Enhances the digestive process reflexively by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous response
• Mechanically pushes indigestible waste through the intestines
Urinary System
• Increases cellular and chemical waste excreted via urine
• Encourages constriction of the smooth muscle of the urinary bladder to eliminate more urine as a reflexive response of the parasympathetic nervous system
Endocrine System
• Increase delivery of hormones and other chemicals as a result of increased circulation of blood
• Reduces levels of cortisol and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), stress-related hormones

(Source: Introduction to Massage Therapy, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008)

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