Massage therapy, in many people's minds, is simply focused on relieving tension. However, massage has an ancient history and is used in many traditional healing therapies. A form of bodywork, massage includes techniques like kneading, stretching, tapping and stroking, with the goal of loosening muscle fibers to relieve spasm. Although it is certainly relaxing, a good professional massage can also increase flexibility, improve circulation and lower the blood pressure. Massage has even been found to promote immune system function.
Massage has many variations; there are over 200 massage techniques and dozens of different styles of massage. The gentle, flowing strokes of relaxation massage may be familiar to many people. Swedish massage is a more vigorous technique that is focused on improving circulation. Deep tissue massage is used to help loosen the fascia -- a tight covering over the muscles -- and targets the deep muscles beneath the skin. Massage techniques have also been developed for conditions like pregnancy or specific groups like the elderly.
The physical pressure and stroking help relax the muscles, allowing them to loosen and helping to relieve spasm. Massage also stimulates the lymphatic system, which promotes drainage of waste substances and toxins that can contribute to muscle pain. The increased circulation from massage means muscles receive more oxygen. Finally, special receptor cells in the skin are stimulated by massage and send chemical messages to the brain that promotes the release of pain-killing endorphins.
Combining massage therapy and chiropractic can accelerate healing. Muscle tension and spasm can cause alignment problems, and vice versa. Even if the alignment is corrected, the muscles may still experience pain and this may result in alignment changes as the patient changes his or her posture. Chiropractors might use massage in a limited fashion, but their primary focus is correcting misalignment. A full massage can have much more impact and make chiropractic treatment more effective.
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