Occasionally clients will say to me: ‘ That just felt so great, but how does massage actually work?’ As you can imagine there are just so many levels on which we could discuss this question, physiologically, emotionally , mechanically… It illustrates very well, that there are a lot of reasons to have a massage and many different expected outcomes to consider.
Take Sports massage for example: Here the goal we are working towards is aiding recovery, preventing injury and sometimes treating injuries. Massage achieves this primarily by increasing the blood flow into the area, supplying nutrients to repair an injury and by manually stretching out the fibres in the muscle. The passive extension of the muscle is an impact free way of stretching , which may have been compacted as a reaction to pain and inflammation. Additionally to the mechanical nature of massage, there is a central nervous system response to the physical and mental focus on an area. Call it adrenaline or endorphin or any other ‘feel good’ hormone, but observation definitively shows a decrease in the perception of associated muscle pain.
For better or worse not all reasons of why massage works are scientifically explored. However we are starting to see proper scientific proof more and more often now, as well as a drive to find out more by institutions such as the New Zealand Massage Therapy Research Centre http://nzmtrc.sit.ac.nz/.
For the time being it is simply a matter of giving it a go and who could complain about that!