Over the years many clients of mine have asked “What causes the stress in their muscles?” “Why is that muscle so tight?”
My answer is usually your spaghetti noodles are stuck together. That sounds a little weird, but bear with me. If you stick noodles in a pot and don’t stir them, what happens? They stick together. What if you try to cook the noodles with not enough water? The noodles stay hard, don’t cook or they never soften.
Our muscles are made up of bunch of fibers, sorta like spaghetti noodles.
Frankly there are a lot if reasons why our muscles get tight. Usually if we don’t stretch our muscles, have a lot of stressors, are not active, poor posture or stay hydrated the muscle fibers will stick together. Just like the spaghetti noodles when we don’t stir them or use enough water. The noodles are a silly analogy for the muscle fibers. But usually everyone knows what spaghetti noodles look like and have a basic premise on how to cook them.
So how do you keep your muscle fibers from sticking together. One of the best was is through massage. Massage loosens the muscle fibers so they can move freely. This helps with improving range of motion and relieves tension.
I recommend getting a massage a minimum of every three months, once every two weeks is ideal. Just like our car needs a good tune up every so many miles, so do we. Hey, another analogy!
Now massage won’t fix every tight muscle if you are not taking care of your body. I will go into more details in another blog post so this article will not take a long detour and get off topic. Mainly staying hydrated, active and general healthy habits along with massage is the one of the best ways to keep our muscle fibers/spaghetti noodles loose and moving freely.
(I love this picture from AMTA website that shares some good reasons to get a massage.)
The website MassageTherapy.com list some of the many benefits of massage and has links for some clinical studies on massage. I have shared their information and links for resources below.
The Benefits Of Massage
What exactly are the benefits of receiving massage or bodywork treatments? Useful for all of the conditions listed below and more, massage can:
- Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.
- Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers and shorten maternity hospital stays.
- Ease medication dependence.
- Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body’s natural defense system.
- Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
- Help athletes of any level prepare for, and recover from, strenuous workouts.
- Improve the condition of the body’s largest organ—the skin.
- Increase joint flexibility.
- Lessen depression and anxiety.
- Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks.
- Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.
- Reduce post surgery adhesion’s and swelling.
- Reduce spasms and cramping.
- Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles.
- Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller.
- Relieve migraine pain.
A Powerful Ally
There’s no denying the power of bodywork. Regardless of the adjectives we assign to it (pampering, rejuvenating, therapeutic) or the reasons we seek it out (a luxurious treat, stress relief, pain management), massage therapy can be a powerful ally in your healthcare regimen.
Experts estimate that upwards of ninety percent of disease is stress related. And perhaps nothing ages us faster, internally and externally, than high stress. While eliminating anxiety and pressure altogether in this fast-paced world may be idealistic, massage can, without a doubt, help manage stress. This translates into:
- Decreased anxiety.
- Enhanced sleep quality.
- Greater energy.
- Improved concentration.
- Increased circulation.
- Reduced fatigue.
Furthermore, clients often report a sense of perspective and clarity after receiving a massage. The emotional balance bodywork provides can often be just as vital and valuable as the more tangible physical benefits.
In response to massage, specific physiological and chemical changes cascade throughout the body, with profound effects. Research shows that with massage:
- Arthritis sufferers note fewer aches and less stiffness and pain.
- Asthmatic children show better pulmonary function and increased peak air flow.
- Burn injury patients report reduced pain, itching, and anxiety.
- High blood pressure patients demonstrate lower diastolic blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones.
- Premenstrual syndrome sufferers have decreased water retention and cramping.
- Preterm infants have improved weight gain.
Research continues to show the enormous benefits of touch—which range from treating chronic diseases, neurological disorders, and injuries, to alleviating the tensions of modern lifestyles. Consequently, the medical community is actively embracing bodywork, and massage is becoming an integral part of hospice care and neonatal intensive care units. Many hospitals are also incorporating on-site massage practitioners and even spas to treat post surgery or pain patients as part of the recovery process.
Increase the Benefits with Frequent Visits
Getting a massage can do you a world of good. And getting massage frequently can do even more. This is the beauty of bodywork. Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year. Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health. And remember: just because massage feels like a pampering treat doesn’t mean it is any less therapeutic. Consider massage appointments a necessary piece of your health and wellness plan, and work with your practitioner to establish a treatment schedule that best meets your needs.
Review the clinical research studies examining the benefits of massage.
Review massage information from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health.