Most everyone I speak to knows that massage focuses on muscle tissue. But have you ever thought about why muscles respond so well to massage? To answer that question it helps to have a good understanding of muscle tissue, which we really focus on here at Oregon Massage and Wellness Clinic in Oregon City, Oregon.
There are two main types of muscles. First, skeletal muscles, which are referred to as voluntary muscles because we can move them at will for actions. And second, the involuntary muscles that move automatically like the heart, lungs and muscles of the digestive system. Both types of muscle receive benefit from massage but in different capacities.
In order to be classified as muscle tissue, there are four characteristics that must be present. The first is excitability which implies the tissue has the ability to receive and respond to stimuli. The second is contractibility which implies the tissue can shorten and thicken, which allows the tissue to perform work and or movement. Extensibility refers to the tissue’s ability to be stretched and elasticity is the characteristic that allows the muscle to return to the original starting position, like a rubber band.
The functions of skeletal tissue are the obvious muscles to receive benefit from massage. When muscular tissue is injured, spasms can occur as well as scar tissue. Any injury can cause this to happen, from a simple “charley horse” in a muscle to a more traumatic injury such as whiplash or even from surgical cutting of a muscle. All injuries have the same effect, limiting the ability of the muscle to function properly.
If your muscle suffers an injury it will not be able to perform normal tasks, such as reaching over your head for an item off a shelf after having an injury to your arm. Other indicators of injury might be limping when walking, unable to stand tall or maintain your posture. All these injuries can be improved on by therapeutic massage.
Massage works with the fiber direction of the muscle tissue to help break apart adhesions that form after injury and restrict movement. This assists you to once again, using the examples above, to reach above your head, walk without a limp and regain your correct posture. Massage also breaks up scar tissue and when used on a regular basis during the healing process can help reduce the level of pain felt in the body. Another function of muscle tissue is to generate heat for the body. As we move we become warmer, so when we feel pain and hurt during movement we tend to move less and generate less personal heat.
Involuntary muscles also receive benefit from therapeutic massage. For example, the intestines receive benefit from massage in helping to move food matter through the intestines with less stress placed on the muscles which can help calm intestinal distress for people who suffer with irritable bowel disorders. Massage also affects the circulation system and this helps the heart and lungs work more efficiently, with less stress.
So how does this all help to make us feel good from massage? Well, go back to the ability to receive and respond to stimuli. Being able to receive therapeutic massage helps the muscle relax. From the correct repetitive strokes utilized in massage to bring relaxation to the muscle tissue, to the stimulation of the lymph system to help cleanse the toxins from the muscles, massage is a terrific way to provide your muscles with the care they deserve. Call today to schedule an appointment and let us help you have happy muscles too!