The Magic of Massage

I have been a real fan of using massage techniques since I was a physiotherapist in training. I had great physiotherapy mentors in Germany during two summers of work experience and they whole-heartedly advocated the benefits of the therapy to me. Harry told me that “Even if a person has injured a big toe – this can cause back tension and massage can ensure that the patient does not end up with a limp”. I totally connected with this grounded truth. It made sense to me.

I went on early in my work life to volunteer in a few physio tents at running events at home and abroad providing the rub down for the athletes – always such a treat for the person on the receiving end! Maybe it is the release of endorphins – or the release of oxytocin the feel good/bonding hormone. Scientific evidence is showing that there are indeed a lot of health benefits.

What scenarios do I now use massage for? In everyday practise I use it for sports conditions and often friction massage a sprained ankle or knee ligament. I regularly release deep tension in hamstring, quads and calf muscles arising from football and sporting injuries. I teach patients with constipation issues bowel massage techniques to allow for self-care at home helping the problem dissipate. In recent years I find the use of massage in the abdominal muscles fantastic for treating hormonal/menstrual cramp pains. I often find that tight neck muscles are a big cause of headaches and many of my patients have been delighted to resolve recurrent headaches with the use of trigger point massage and other measures such as posture control and exercise.

Leading lifestyle UK GP Dr. Rangan Chatterjee who has written 2 top selling books in the past 2 years called the “4 pillar Plan” and “The Stress Solution” holds massage in high esteem. He writes about the many benefits of massage which I am delighted to quote to my patients as I always naturally sway to its use.

These include: slowing down of heart rate and lowering of blood pressure. Lowering of cortisol stress hormone, increase of lymphocytes (white blood cells) helping the body to defend itself against disease. There can be increased levels of endogenous opioids which can improve mood, decrease pain and lower anxiety. Inflammation can also be reduced with the reduction in the level of cytokines post massage.

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The magic of massage became even clearer to me only last week when I was almost finished treating a lady after a few physio sessions for her pelvic pain.  She was limping a little and explained how she had an arthritic knee for years and that it was playing up the last few days. I assessed it and found that the medial knee ligament was a little sprained and sore.

Ten minutes later after some friction massage she almost skipped out the door in disbelief and was looking forward to dancing at a neighbours wedding the next day. Whether this came about or not the thing I know for sure is that this lady has now found a friend in massage. I know it will give her plenty of relief in the future and empower her to look more holistically at her injuries. Maybe, just maybe her knee wasn’t quite so chronically injured all along. Who knows it may have just been soft tissue tension.

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