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Can massage help my injury?

Absolutely! If you have been experiencing ongoing pain from an injury such as a pulled hamstring, frozen shoulder, tweaked low back or neck, massage therapy can help your body heal quickly with fewer residual effects. Massage therapy supports your body’s natural healing processes, such as blood flow, nutrition, postural balance, and fiber alignment, thus making it easier for you to have a full recovery with reduced pain along the way. Unlike a full-body relaxation massage, a massage therapy session targeted towards healing an injury will likely be deeper and concentrated on certain areas affected by the injury.

Massage encourages blood circulation with three types of strokes. Deep tissue massage relaxes muscles, liberating the fluid that is trapped by tension. Gentle pumping strokes, called Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), focus on the space between your skin and your muscles, encouraging those liberated fluids to return to the heart. Your practitioner will methodically clear the fluid close to the heart and work outwards until they reach the tips of toes and fingers. Lastly, Effleurage, a soothing Swedish-style stoke, is used to further encourage blood flow against gravity back to your heart. Once this manual “venous return” is performed, your muscles fill with new, nutrient-packed blood that helps them heal.

Increased blood flow facilitates the second process that is important for healing: nutrition. By warming and relaxing the muscles on and around the injury, massage increases the amount of nutrient-carrying blood to the area. Deep tissue, sports massage, and orthopedic massage are three styles of massage that work into the muscle tissue this way, releasing tension and allowing blood flow into the area. With blood flow comes the oxygen, nutrients, and minerals required to heal an injury and ultimately support your muscles to be strong and healthy.

Relaxation is a key effect of massage therapy that helps with injury rehabilitation and general resilience. Deep tissue strokes and trigger point compression release tension and restore the muscle fibers to their full function. Poor posture, lack of movement, sitting in one position, and overuse can overstretch one muscle and contract it’s counterpart on the other side of the joint. An example of this is the pectoralis major and minor muscles in the front of your chest. These muscles tend to be contracted, while the trapezius and rhomboids on your back are over stretched. Deep tissue massage and trigger point therapy can return these muscles to their proper level of stretch and position. This makes improving your posture much easier so that you don’t continue the discomfort and dysfunction that led to the injury.

Massage also helps you avoid scar tissue that may linger long after your injury has healed. When you are injured, your body lays down collagen fibers in a random pattern to shore up an injured area. For this reason, doctors want you up and moving as soon as possible after surgery. The motion breaks the collagen fibers that don’t align with the movement of your joint. Likewise, your massage therapist will do cross-fiber strokes along the muscle with the scar tissue, realigning the new fibers. This process is best begun 2-3 days after an injury but can help soften and reduce scar tissue even many years later. Last, but not least, coming in for massage can give you psychological relief. The warm room, soothing music, and skillful touch combine to promote the release of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine--all neurotransmitters that promote overall relaxation. These “feel good” compounds replace the stress hormone, cortisol, leading to less stress, anxiety, and depression, and more good feelings! This is essential for the soul and helps with injury recovery. As the saying goes, “when we feel better, we are better.”

Thus, massage plays an important role in facilitating the processes required to heal an injury. The next time you have a sore ankle, a cranky knee or hip, or a torqued neck, think about Chez Gabrielle. We’re here to help you resolve that injury or discomfort, so you can enjoy life again.

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