There is no substitute for massage therapy when it comes to healing soft tissue pain and injury. It is very important to understand that when rehabilitating these injuries, certain steps should be followed, and in a specific order, to insure the fastest possible recovery. Setbacks usually occur because the order of rehab was not followed correctly resulting in re-injury and continued pain. The first and most important step is to lower the degree of inflammation, release spasm, trigger points, scar tissue, hyper-tonicity, ischemia and nerve compression (massage therapy).
Secondly, proper biomechanics and flexibility of tissues must be restored (stretching, gait re-patterning and movement exercises). The final step is to rebuild strength of the injured muscles (weight training) and rebuilding endurance (work hardening and aerobic exercises). These last two steps are usually accomplished with the help of physical therapy and/or a home exercise program.
HOW DOES MASSAGE WORK?
Stroking, pressing and kneading different parts of the body not only feels relaxing and soothing, but at the same time initiates hundred of physiological responses. Let’s take a closer look at some of these responses resulting from an injury and how massage restores homeostasis.
When there is muscle or soft tissue injury an internal alarm is sounded resulting in a cascade of responses.
The chemical mediators of inflammation rush to the site of injury where white blood cells wall it off for repair. Toxin eating cells called macrophages clean up the debris. Other chemicals flood the tissues to assist in tissue regeneration. Surrounding tissues tighten to protect the area further. This tightening closes small capillaries feeding the muscle, causing lack of blood flow to the tissue (ischemia). The ischemia causes pain; the pain tightens the muscle even more. What started out as a beautifully orchestrated system of healing has now turned into a nightmare. Instead of rest and proper injury care (see Emergency care of an acute injury), repetitive motion or daily tasks continually tax the muscle. Also, when a muscle has been injured by trauma, a protective tightening replaces the reflex contract mechanism. Muscle memory has been reset by the trauma; therefore, the injured muscle no longer retains its former toned condition. The intervention of massage therapy breaks this cycle. For example, let’s take the act of applying direct pressure to a spasmed muscle. Simply stated, the nervous system registers pressure applied to the soft tissue. The response to pressure is sent to the brain via the nervous system to be processed. The brain then sends a signal back to the muscle telling it that it needs to relax from the pressure being applied (or the pain will be worse!). Voila, the muscle relaxes to get out of the pressure. Similar to using a switch to turn off a light, we have used direct pressure via the nervous system to reset muscle tone. We have interrupted the pain/spasm cycle.
The benefits of massage therapy as part of your acupuncture treatment are numerous. A few of these benefits are:
- Stimulates blood circulation
- Assists the lymph system in removing wastes from tissues
- Decreases hyper-constriction and spasm of soft tissues thereby interrupting the pain/spasm cycle
- Restores flexibility, increases muscle tone
- Decreases inflammation
- Permits normalization of physiological disturbances
- Restores homeostasis
- Improves breathing and relaxation
- Breaks up scar tissue
My specialty in massage therapy is the Paul St. John Neuromuscular therapy. It is based on the trigger point therapy work pioneered by Dr. Janet Travell. Depending on the condition treated, I also use a combination of other techniques such as deep tissue massage, myofacial release and cranio-sacral therapy.
With your treatment at Seattle Health Therapies, you can rest assured that you are getting 16 years of clinical experience in injury rehabilitation.
To learn more about our massage therapy treatments, contact us.