Massage therapy is designed to affect the muscular system in a number of ways. Not only does a massage soothe the client, it stretches, repairs and invigorates his muscles. Depending on the area of the body and the type of stroke used by the therapist, the effect on the muscular system can vary, but the massage therapist’s goal is to create a healthier muscular system.
The massage therapist will usually start with long, fluid strokes or some compressions to “warm up” the muscles. This “warming” is actually blood flowing through the flesh. The therapist’s touch increases blood flow to the area, and promotes drainage of stagnant fluids that may have been resting in the area. The blood also brings essential nutrients to the muscle tissue.
A key goal of massage therapy is the elongation of the body’s muscles. Through focused work, the therapist can trace the muscle underneath your skin. This creates a result that is similar to stretching. The muscle becomes more limber, and after your massage session range of motion in the affected area should improve. A massage session may even include range-of-motion exercises, in which the therapist takes your limb through its area of movement. This procedure is also designed to stretch and relax the muscle.
Massage is used to heal torn or strained muscle fibers. In the case of injury, massage can help eliminate scar tissue that has formed on the muscle fibers. This scar tissue can restrict proper movement of the muscle, and prevent proper blood flow to the area. The therapist may dig deep into the muscle with her fingers and perform friction over an area of injury to promote proper healing and eliminate this scarring.
The tapping or chopping part of massage is known as tapotement, and brief application of these processes causes the muscles to numb. This stroke is so relaxing because it overwhelms the nerve cells that connect to the muscles and causes general relaxation in the area.
Eastern massage, such as shiatsu, attempts to create a balance of energy throughout the body. The therapist may stimulate pressure points with his thumb or fingers. The pressure on these points can be deep. The muscle may contract at the first touch, but as the therapist presses in, the muscle and the surrounding area will relax.