Massage – How Does it Work ?

How does massage work?

For centuries, human touch has been shown to be emotionally and physically healing. Particular massage techniques may either stimulate or calm the body’s muscles and tissues to create a desired effect. When a practitioner massages soft tissue, electrical signals are transmitted both to the local area and throughout the body. These signals, in combination with the healing properties of touch, help heal damaged muscle, stimulate circulation, clear waste products via the lymphatic system, boost the activity of the immune system, reduce pain and tension, and induce a calming effect. Massage may also enhance well-being by stimulating the release of endorphins (natural painkillers and mood elevators) and reducing levels of certain stress hormones.

upper traps

What happens during a massage therapy session?

At your first massage therapy session, the practitioner will ask you about any symptoms you may have (like low back pain) and will also ask questions about your medical history. The practitioner may also initiate a discussion about what you expect to achieve from the massage session.

The therapist leaves the room while you undress and lie down on the massage table. A sheet is draped over your body during the session and moved only to expose the part of the body being worked on at any given time. Massage oil or lotion is often used to reduce friction between the practitioner’s hands and your skin. The room is kept warm and free of distractions. The therapist will ask whether they are applying too much or too little pressure. Soft music may be playing in the background.

The manner in which a practitioner massages your body depends on the problem being treated. A massage session can last from 15 – 90 minutes and may include a schedule of follow-up visits, depending on the severity of your situation.

upper neck and shoulders massage

What is massage good for?

In general, massage is believed to support healing, boost energy, reduce recovery time after an injury, ease pain, and enhance relaxation, mood, and well-being. It is useful for many musculoskeletal problems, such as low back pain, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and sprains and strains. Massage may also relieve depression in people with chronic fatigue syndrome, ease chronic constipation (when the technique is performed in the abdominal area), decrease swelling after a mastectomy (removal of the breast), alleviate sleep disorders, and improve self-image. In the workplace, massage has been shown to melt away stress and enhance mental alertness. One study found that deep tissue massage reduced blood pressure levels (an average reduction of 10.4 mm Hg in systolic pressure and a diastolic pressure reduction of 5.3 mm Hg). Other studies show that massage may have immediate beneficial effects on pain and mood among patients with advanced cancer.

Clinical studies show that massage relieves chronic back pain more effectively than other treatments (including acupuncture and conventional medical care for this condition with education via books and videos) and, in many cases, costs less than other treatments. Mothers and newborns also appear to benefit from massage. Mothers trained to massage their infants often feel less depressed and have a better emotional bond with their babies. Newborns who receive massage from their mothers also tend to cry less, and are more active, alert, and sociable. Premature babies who receive massage therapy have been shown to gain weight faster than preemies who do not receive this type of therapy. Infants who receive massage regularly may also sleep better, be less gassy or colicky, and have better body awareness as well as more regular digestion.

Clinical studies also show that massage may be an effective treatment for young children and adolescents with a wide range of health problems, including:

  • Autism: Autistic children, who usually don’t like being touched, show less autistic behaviour and are more social and attentive after receiving massage therapy from their parents.
  • Atopic dermatitis/eczema: Children with this scaly, itchy skin problem seem to experience less redness, scaling, and other symptoms if receiving massage between flares. Massage should not be used when this skin condition is actively inflamed.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):┬áMassage may improve mood in children with ADHD and help them feel less fidgety and hyperactive.
  • Bulimia:┬áStudies show that adolescents with this eating disorder feel less depressed and anxious after receiving massage therapy.
  • Cystic fibrosis:┬áMassage may reduce anxiety and improve respiration in children with this lung condition.
  • Diabetes: Massage may help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce anxiety and depression in children with diabetes.

shoulder massage


Added by :Eddie Jackman
Acupuncturist,Physical Therapist and Sports Therapist based in Waterford
For treatments or appointments please call 087 6701166