HOW MASSAGE THERAPY WORKS
RMTs’ extensive training allows them to meet a wide range of health care needs, from acute injury rehabilitation to prevention and maintenance of general overall health. Massage therapy is the integration of manual techniques, active exercise programs and patient education working in conjunction with the medical doctors. RMTs are trained to assess the specific rehabilitative requirements of injured persons. This allows RMTs to correctly identify the appropriate treatment program for each person. While individual programs can vary, a program may include specialized hydrotherapy, core stabilization and strengthening exercises.
These programs are often progressive in nature, initially addressing the pain, discomfort and inflammation associated with injuries. As treatment progresses, RMTs will often address the underlying cause and work to rehabilitate the patient. Once rehabilitation is complete and the patient has been restored to optimal function, the RMT can offer preventive education and exercise programs.
Research shows that massage therapy is effective in reducing fibrosis and contracture, improving circulation, reducing muscular spasm, controlling pain, improving respiratory function and affecting the emotional centres in the limbic system.
Muscles move our bodies. The muscle and skeletal system makeup 60% of the mass of the human body. Skin, fascia, muscle, tendon and ligaments are a few examples of what is called soft tissue. Apart from its obvious role in the support and motion of the body, muscle is also involved in biochemical and biomechanical activities. Soft tissue is the main consumer of our body’s energy.
Soft tissue can be a source of a great deal of pain and dysfunction. This pain can be general, localized or can refer to other areas of the body. Dysfunctions can be the result of trauma, such as sport or motor vehicle injuries, illness, emotional stress and mechanical such as poor posture.
RMTs use specialized techniques that are shown to improve muscle tone, strength, and endurance, and produce relaxation of the muscles. Muscle tissue does its work by contracting and relaxing. If the muscle remains shortened by injury of overuse, it becomes dysfunctional and can no longer perform to its maximum potential. RMTs are trained to work directly with manual manipulation techniques or indirectly with exercise techniques to elongate the contracted muscle and restore the muscle to normal function. Benefits of massage therapy treatment are the reduction of spasm, the improvement of range of motion and strength, and prevention of fibrosis (scare tissue).
Effective massage therapy techniques focus on shortened soft tissues and attempts to restore their natural, pain free function through hands-on manual techniques, activation (stretches)and patient education. RMTs are the leaders of health care in the effective natural treatment of soft tissue disorders.
FIBROSIS AND CONTRACTURE
The prevention and treatment of fibrosis (abnormal formation of scar tissue) and contracture (abnormal shortening of muscle and soft tissue) is a primary treatment goal following tissue damage, inflammation or immobilization. For example, transverse frictions, a manual technique used to treat strained ligaments, prevents abnormal adhesion formation to surrounding connective tissue, bones and tendons.
Application of these techniques is used to treat tendinitis, muscular and ligamentous lesions from both recent injury and remaining scar tissue formation from a past injury. Other conditions commonly treated for fibrosis and contracture include torticollis, contusions (post-acute), adhesive capsulitis, osteoarthritis and most musculo-skeletal lesions.
Massage Therapy has been found to be more effective in increasing blood flow than moderate exercise. Selected massage therapy techniques decrease blood pressure and heart rate, making it a recommended treatment for some cardiac and hypertensive patients.
Manual soft tissue treatment increases circulation of the blood and lymph, influencing effective delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells. As a result, patients with edema and inflammatory conditions may be helped by massage therapy.
CONTROL OF PAIN
The effectiveness of massage therapy in pain control is widely recognized. It can act directly on pain receptors, either at a peripheral or central nervous system level.
Therapeutic soft tissue manipulation is used to break the pain-tension cycle, thereby directly affecting the source of pain. Pain relief can also be obtained by the increase of circulation (decrease of congestion), the increase of range of motion (ROM) and the release of myofascial trigger points. Pain management through massage therapy is useful for post-traumatic, post-surgical and palliative (terminal) care. It may also help with pain associated with muscular lesions, arthritis, neuritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Respiratory disorders and diseases are commonly treated with massage therapy. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma are commonly treated with massage therapy. When breathing muscles are taxed and rib cage mobility is decreased, manual therapy treatment can be beneficial by improving forced vital capacity, respiratory rate and chest expansion. Techniuqes used for people with COPD include postural drainage, manipulation of respiratory muscles combined with chest percussion and exercises for breathing and trunk mobilization.