• Sat. May 25th, 2024

Mending Movements: The Role of Massage in Physical Healing

Bysonal gupta

Oct 12, 2023

Most traditional mending techniques are designed to hide the repair. But a “visible mending” movement is taking hold that draws attention to snags, tears and holes in garments with contrasting threads or decorative embroidery.

Martha has a demanding job caring for her elderly mother. But she has severe back pain that radiates down her leg. She tries massage to help relieve her symptoms.

Warming of the Soft Tissues

The friction from the massage therapist’s hands on the soft tissues warms them, allowing for flexibility and reducing tension. This increases blood flow to the area, aiding in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients needed for healing. It also helps the body flush away toxins, which reduces inflammation and swelling.

The kneading and manipulation of the soft tissue during massage can be gentle or intense, depending on the type of massage and the injury being addressed. For example, a deep tissue massage gets into the muscles and tendons to release tightness from sports injuries or even less strenuous activity like sitting or hunching over a computer. The pressure applied during this type of massage can be quite intense and requires a lot of strength from the therapist.

According to the gate-control theory, a type of pain therapy, massage can relieve discomfort by opening the nerve gates that send pain signals to the brain. This is thought to work by stimulating larger nerve fibers that sense pressure and temperature. These nerve fibers out-race the shorter, pain-sensitive ones to close the gate and block the signal.

Aside from treating specific physical injuries and ailments, massage can also be used to reduce stress levels and improve general mood. Studies have shown that massage decreases cortisol and increases oxytocin, a hormone that promotes bonding and feelings of connection and well-being.


The stroking and kneading movements of massage create a relaxation response in the body. This is a state of deep rest where your heart rate and blood pressure decrease, muscles relax and levels of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, neurotransmitters that boost mood, increase feelings of well-being and encourage healthy cell growth, rise.

Increasing your relaxation through massage can reduce pain by reducing the stress and anxiety that are often associated with it. It can also lower the production of cortisol, a hormone that contributes to inflammation and stress-related disorders like hypertension.

Massage can also stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. This can help to decrease depression and encourage an overall sense of contentment. It can also help to improve sleep quality by calming the nervous system, promoting relaxation and improving the flow of blood, which in turn, increases tissue elasticity.

In addition to reducing pain, increased relaxation through massage can help you to heal more quickly from injury or overuse. This is because massage therapy can help to break down the adhesions that form when muscle tissue is injured. It can also encourage the body to produce more white blood cells, which are your first line of defense against infection and disease. This is why regular massage is important for athletes to help them to prevent injuries and recover from injuries more quickly.

Stimulation of the Parasympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) governs the body’s “rest and digest” functions, while counterbalancing the more active sympathetic nerve activity that triggers our “fight or flight” response. Modern lifestyles and stress can skew the balance toward sympathetic dominance, so that the body prioritizes production over restoration. The PNS can be stimulated to balance the body’s needs by delivering anti-inflammatory and restorative neurochemistry.

Research shows that massage improves blood and lymph circulation. This is likely due to the physical manipulation of soft tissue, as well as to the chemicals that are released in response to relaxation. Increased circulation supports the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells, while facilitating the removal of waste products and excess fluids.

Massage can also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system through a variety of non-touch methods. One of the easiest is visualisation, which involves relaxing your muscles and thinking about a place that is special to you, such as a beach, area of forest, etc. You then imagine this place’s smells, colours, sounds, and other sensory experiences.

Another way to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system is to take deep breaths. This helps to lengthen the exhale and slow the heart rate. Creating art can also activate the parasympathetic nervous system, as it allows you to completely focus your mind and attention on what you are doing.

Stimulation of White Blood Cells

White blood cells are a group of immune system cells (leukocytes) that help defend the body against disease and infection by ingesting foreign material, destroying invading microbes and cancerous cells, and producing antibodies. They are produced in the soft tissue inside your bones, called bone marrow. There are two types of white blood cells: granulocytes and agranulocytes. The latter contain granules in their cytoplasm, while the former do not. Each plays a different role in the immune system.

Improved circulation can also enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells. It can also facilitate the removal of waste materials and excess fluids from the muscles, which reduces swelling and stiffness. Massage has also been shown to improve lymphatic flow.

Athletes that incorporate massage into their routine can see benefits such as a shortened recovery time after training or competition and an enhanced ability to build strength. This is because massage increases muscle blood flow and flexibility, which can prevent tight muscles from damaging themselves with excessive contractions. It can also help reduce the accumulation of lactic acid and carbonic acid, which are waste products from exercise that can cause stiff, sore muscles. Moreover, regular massage can boost an athlete’s immunity and reduce the risk of injury. This is because the physical manipulation of muscles can stimulate the innate immune response.

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