Massage is well known to relieve tension and to relax weary muscles. What exactly does massage do? Does it just feel good? Some chiropractic patients have muscles that are so tight that massage of the muscles before an adjustment can really enhance their treatment.
Massage can be a powerful tool. By improving blood supply in your muscles and skin, and returning blood to the heart, massage can effect the circulatory system. Old injuries and new injures can often be helped by massage which can break up adhesions and excess scar tissue.
Pressure on a muscle can improve blood supply and circulation. By bringing new blood supply and fresh nutrients into an injured area, healing is promoted. The old injured cells and waste products can be carried away. A similar process can also happen when you are sick and fighting off a cold. The massaging motion and pressure can help drain your lymphatic glands and help move “the junk” out of your system. For this reason, you should drink several glasses of pure water after a massage. Often you will no longer feel like you are fighting off a cold. Likewise, if you don’t drink any water, you might develop symptoms similar to having a cold, or you might experience muscle soreness after a massage. So, be sure to drink water when you have just had a massage!
Certain massage techniques are relaxing while others focus on particular muscles that might be tender or injured. The 5 basic types of massage concentrate on different outcomes. Effleurage is a slow, gentle, rhythmic movement to relax the muscle and acquaint the patient with the touch of the masseuse or masseur. A deep, stroking technique helps to move fluid of the veins and lymphatics in the direction of the heart. Petrissage is a kneading motion that promotes circulation and breaks up knots and scar tissue within a muscle. Petrissage can also stretch tight muscles and tendons. Friction techniques loosen up scars and adhesions that can lie fairly deep within your muscles. Hollywood has made famous the last technique, Tapotement or Percussion. With a “chop chop” motion this technique can loosen up a knotted muscle or congested chest.
Particular conditions can respond better to specific massage. For example, knots and “trigger points” which are tight knots that when activated or pressed can cause pain to travel. Trigger points can accompany certain conditions such as Tennis Elbow. Loosening the muscles on the outside of your forearm near your elbow is important in the treatment of tennis elbow. Headaches are often accompanied by muscle tightness in your neck or at the base of your skull. Both of these conditions respond well when massage is incorporated into your treatment.
Massage can be effective in treating arthritis, which is a disease of muscle as well as of joints and bones. Improving circulation and relaxing tight muscles can allow more joint motion. Sprains and strains respond well to massage and muscle re-education.
Despite it’s therapeutic value, massage may be harmful for certain conditions. One of the most important aspects of health care is knowing when not to prescribe or use a particular remedy. A patient with burns, infection, phlebitis, tumors or acute inflammation should probably avoid massage. Check with your doctor first if you have any questions about massage.
In fact, your doctor may recommend massage. By loosening your muscles, massage can help prepare you for a gentle chiropractic treatment.
The chiropractic adjustment helps to retrain or reset the neurological or nerve message to the muscle, so that the muscle can remain loose. Just a massage without an adjustment can permit the muscle to retighten. It is the adjustment that helps to correct, increase and retrain joint motion. The author describes this as similar to putting a door back into a hinge. The joint then, can move with less stiffness.
Often, patient’s muscles are loose enough for an adjustment to be done without massage. Frequently the muscle releases or relaxes immediately after a chiropractic adjustment. The resetting of the messages from the nerve and feedback mechanisms surrounding the joint and muscle, can give relief to muscle and joint pain after a chiropractic adjustment.
The combination of massage and chiropractic do work very well together because the massage can relax tight muscles before a chiropractic treatment. Specific massage can be part of an overall treatment plan for injury recovery and stress relaxation.
In general, massage can be a helpful, health promoting technique and chiropractic treatments may be enhanced by massage.