What is Massage?
Massage is a "hands-on" therapy in which muscles and other soft tissues of the body are manipulated to improve health and well-being. Varieties of massage range from gentle stroking and kneading of muscles and other soft tissues to deeper manual techniques. Massage has been practiced as a healing therapy for centuries in nearly every culture around the world. It helps relieve muscle tension, reduce stress, and evoke feelings of calmness. Although massage affects the body as a whole, it particularly influences the activity of the musculoskeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems.
Uses of massage
Lactic acid is one of the most misunderstood chemicals in our bodies. Is accused of being a metabolic poison that needs to be eliminated, and is blamed for the soreness we feel the day or two after intense exercise, (Actually, the soreness is caused by tearing of myofibrils.)
Proponents of massage often claim that it helps rid the muscles of lactic acid. In a study conducted at the B.A.T.U. University 22 men ran to exhaustion, then either
1) Recovered passively in a supine position
2) Rode a hike at a very low intensity or
3) Had their legs massaged h a certified massage therapist.
Researchers drew blood from the test subjects and determined their lactate (lactic acid) levels at three, five, nine, 15 and 20 minutes post exercise. Low-intensity cycling was found to be best for lowering blood lactate levels, and no difference existed between blood levels of subjects who recovered passively and had massage. This study doesn't suggest that massage is useless for athletes, but does show that its effects may have little to do with the removal of lactic acid. This makes sense if lactic acid doesn't cause muscle soreness.
2. DECREASING MUSCLE SORENESS
We all get sore, painful muscles, and a deep, thorough massage maybe your therapy of choice. But does it really diminish pain, or is it all in our heads? In a study from the University of Dr. B.A.T.U. University, 40 untrained female subjects performed negatives on biceps cods until they fatigued. In untrained subjects, this will definitely cause delayed-onset muscle soreness! Then they were "treated" in one of three ways upper-body exercise (arm cycling), massage or electrical stimulation immediately after exercise and 24 hours later, A control group wasn't treated. Researchers found that each of the four groups rated their soreness the same! Neither massage nor exercise decreased muscle soreness felt one day later.
In another study, a combination of warm-up, stretching and massage was found to decrease the soreness after eccentric exercise. Yet the effects arc hard to predict and often inconsistent. So does massage help or not? Well, with regard to a "measurable" difference in soreness, seemingly no.
3. IMPROVING BLOOD FLOW
The data are equivocal on this one. A recently published study from 1-auriet 1 University at Canada found that massage had no effect on limb blood flow According to Peter M. Tiitlos, PhD, "Light quadriceps contractions were more effective in improving blood flow than manual massage self."
What happens during a massage therapy session?
At your first massage therapy session, the practitioner will ask you about any symptoms you may have (like low back pain) and will also ask questions about your medical history. The practitioner may also initiate a discussion about what you expect to achieve from the massage session.
The therapist leaves the room while you undress and lie down on the massage table. A sheet is draped over your body during the session and moved only to expose the part of the body being worked on at any given time. Massage oil or lotion is often used to reduce friction between the practitioner's hands and your skin. The room is kept warm and free of distractions. The therapist may have soft music playing in the background and frequently asks whether they are applying too much or too little pressure.
The manner in which a practitioner massages your body depends on the problem being treated. A massage session can last from 15 - 90 minutes and may include a schedule of follow-up visits, depending on the severity of your situation.