Many of us may have found ourselves listening to a friend/relative who appears not to be coping with the stresses of life, and/or who appears to be suffering from muscular pain/tension as a result of their stress. As a supportive friend perhaps we have suggested to our troubled pal/relativewhy don’t you have a massage to relax and unwind! Or perhaps this has been recommended to you? But have you ever really questioned how exactly does massage work in this way? Why is it relaxing?

 

Of course setting the scene helps, calming music and soothing aromatherapy oils both help to create an ambience conducive to relaxation, but what is happening physically to the body during a massage to achieve a further state of relaxation?

The level of tension held in muscle tissue throughout the body, is controlled by the nervous system. Tension can build up in specific areas of tissue that are continually held in a shortened position, this could be caused by an injury or by emotional, postural, occupational or over-use factors. The nervous system gets used to holding on to this tension and after time accepts this level as normal.

Deep tissue massage techniques on a tender spot often cause initial pain, followed afterwards by relaxation. A couple of theories have emerged to explain this, firstly the pain factor causes a release of endorphins which suppress pain and so release tension. Furthermore, the pressure compresses the blood vessels and starves the immediate area of blood, when the pressure is released the blood floods back in and the nervous system reacts to these changes by relaxing the local tissues that are being worked on . . . hey presto! Tension is released!

So we can see massage has a direct impact on the nervous system, it stimulates the nerve receptors in the tissues which control tissue tension and furthermore , the mechano-receptors (nerve endings) that respond to pressure, touch and warmth are also stimulated. When the therapist touches the clients body, this is registered by sensory receptors in the skin, muscles or joints and messages are relayed to the spinal cord and up to the brain for processing. This results in messages flowing down the spinal cord, via motor nerves to the skeletal muscle. The neurochemical balance in the brain responds to the incoming information and the homeostatic balance of the body is altered, this affects the parasympathetic pathway of the autonomic nervous system which results in relaxation.

There are 2 divisions of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is often called the “fight or flight” pathway which is triggered when we are startled, excited or challenged, it is aroused with emotions associated with anger, joy and fear.

The PNS is connected to the normal and relaxed functioning of the body processes. When the PNS is activated the heart-beat slows and blood pressure is reduced, breathing rate slows down and may become deeper, blood vessels to skeletal muscles return to normal and digestion is promoted. This is often why during a massage a client may feel their tummy rumbling.

Tension in the soft tissues may reduce output from the mechano-receptors, which can cause over-activity in the SNS. By releasing this tension, massage can restore the balance by stimulating the PNS and in so doing bringing the body back to a relaxed state of being.

Massage induces a state of relaxation by activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System – which lowers blood pressure, slows heart-rate and encourages deep, slower breathing.

 

Specific massage techniques help the nervous system “let go” which results in a release of muscle tension and a reduction in pain.

 

Written by Jeanette Mahoney – massage therapist

therapeutic, deep-tissue, thai yoga, chair, pregnancy massage

 

 

 

 

The power of touch! 

Massage . . .  relax  . . . unwind

 

Coast offers a variety of massage treatments from 30 – 90 minutes, ranging from £30-£60 from our team of therapists.

Massage Gift Vouchers are available

 

The perfect gift for Mothers Day!!!!

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