Massage Therapy

Massage is one of the most ancient of all medical techniques; the use of massage therapy is mentioned in historical medical texts from Greece, China and India, among others. When used in combination with chiropractic care, the work of a trained massage therapist and an Arizona chiropractor can help relax muscles, relieve pain, promote immune system function and increase flexibility and range of motion. Here’s what you need to know about Arizona massage therapy, courtesy of Advanced Chiropractic in Phoenix, Arizona.

Massage Has Many Variations

Many people don’t realize that massage is not one but dozens of different therapies. Each has a slightly different focus and may include different techniques. For example, Swedish massage is very vigorous, while relaxation massage uses soothing, gentle strokes. Massage often incorporates the use of herbal infusions and essential oils – in ancient times, these were the only remedies practitioners had to offer. In addition to the physical aspects of loosening and relaxing muscles, these therapeutic essences can have a direct effect on the muscle and the body as a whole. Massage techniques may be used to promote lymphatic drainage, remove waste products or improve circulation. Deep tissue massage targets the fascia (tight covering over a muscle).

Training and Licensing

While you always want to choose a trained massage therapist, there are other considerations as well. Your massage therapist should be licensed (a requirement for Arizona massage therapy practitioners). The purpose of licensing is to protect the public by ensuring that a massage therapist is properly trained and adheres to ethical standards. Massage therapists who are educated at an accredited Arizona school are not required to take a licensing exam, but all other massage therapists must successfully complete the examination to become licensed. In order to remain licensed, massage therapists in Arizona must also complete a minimum of 24 hours of continuing education every two years.

What the Research Says

Researchers have been studying massage to try and determine why it works and exactly what happens. The skin, nerves and muscles are loaded with receptor cells that help people distinguish sensations like heat, cold and pain. Other receptor cells receive messages from hormone and neurotransmitters – chemical messengers throughout the body. You’ve probably heard of endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals in your brain that rise with exercise. Endorphins also help block pain. Studies have shown that massage increases endorphin levels. A July 2011 study in “The Annals of Internal Medicine” found that patients who had massage therapy for pain had better outcomes at 10 weeks than those who received the usual care, with improvements lasting as long as a year.

Massage and Chronic Pain

Massage for chronic pain is often effective for several reasons. Stressed or injured muscles often become tight and easily go into spasm. The chronic muscle tension decreases circulation to the muscle and deprives it of oxygen and nourishment. The tense muscles don’t stretch easily, leading to restricted movement, which further tightens the muscle. Massage has two effects in this situation. First, it increases blood flow, which means the muscle is now getting adequate oxygen and nutrients, and waste products are being removed. Second, the kneading and pressure helps to break up tight areas in the muscle (sometimes called trigger points). No matter what the source of the original problem or injury, any musculoskeletal condition nearly always includes muscle tension and spasm. That’s why massage is so effective for a wide variety of conditions.

Conditions That Respond to Massage

Research has confirmed that massage therapy is effective for a variety of medical conditions.
Among these are:

Anxiety – helps relieve anxiety and depression (which often co-exist) by changing the body’s biochemistry. Massage lowers the stress hormone cortisol and increases production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which both help reduce depression.
Breast and other kinds of cancer – helps relieve anxiety; in breast cancer, massage promotes lymph drainage, which is often affected by surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – people with carpal tunnel syndrome who received massage reported less pain, reduced symptoms and better grip strength than those who did not receive massage.
Heart bypass surgery – reduces pain and spam after surgery.
Hypertension – has a direct effect on elevated blood pressure as well as promoting general relaxation.
Low back pain – relaxes muscles and muscle spasms to help relieve chronic pain, often more effectively than many conventional treatments.
Migraines – helps decrease frequency of migraines and promote better sleep.

Massage and Chiropractic

Combining massage therapy and chiropractic treatment makes very good sense. When joints are out of alignment, muscles become tense and go into spasm. Correcting the misalignment helps decrease the stress on the muscles, ligaments and tendons. On the other hand, massage helps relax muscles so they don’t go into spasm and are less likely to contribute to alignment problems. The chiropractor and massage therapist can collaborate on the treatment plan to ensure the patient receives the greatest benefit from both kinds of therapy.

Massage can really make a difference in the way you feel and can help restore your health. It is effective for many problems and can be adjusted to meet your specific situation and medical needs. If you’re looking for an Arizona chiropractor who includes massage therapy in the treatment program, please consider Advanced Chiropractic.

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