Massage is the manual rubbing and kneading of the body's soft tissues to stimulate circulation and promote relaxation of muscles. Many forms of massage are usedin use throughout the world, including Swedish, deep tissue, Tui Na, Hawaiian, and others. Massage helps the muscles relax by stimulating a reflex response of the nervous system. The application of smooth, steady, rhythmicalmassage can relieve tension and soothe sore muscles. This decrease in muscletension causes the muscle to become more relaxed and elastic. Also, massage'seffect on the circulatory system is beneficial for the healing of soft tissue injuries.

Massage's ability to aid in the recovery from soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, is an important use of massage. Many soft tissue injuriesare not serious enough for doctor or hospital for treatment; but they stillmay cause some discomfort and disability long after the initial injury. Massage can speed and improve the rate of recovery and reduce discomfort.

To understand how massage helps healing in cases of soft tissue injury, it isimportant to understand the inflammatory process. Inflammation begins because blood circulates to the injured area to bring important chemicals essentialfor healing. After a period of time, the initial inflammation stops. If applied at this point, massage will help increase circulation and promote healingas the increased blood flow brings additional oxygen and nutrients to the injured area. In this way, massage helps bridge the gap between common neglectof injury and major expensive medical intervention. Massage can also help stimulate the flow of lymph, the fluid that helps the body remove waste products.

Massage can stimulate inactive muscles whose inactivity is due to illness orinjury. Deep continuous massage can relieve muscle tension and help prevent painful muscle spasms, which are common following injury. Also, massage can stretch and break down fibrous scar tissue that is not healing properly becauseit is not aligned to the adjoining muscle fibers.

Massage affects pain through the central nervous system. In one theory of pain called the "gate theory," messages of pain which normally travel from the injury to the brain are blocked before reaching the centers responsible for interpreting pain. Massage helps stimulate and close the so-called gate of painmessages. As a result, the intensity of pain perceived by the brain is decreased.

Psychosomatic studies show how stress factors can cause migraines, hypertension, depression, some peptic ulcers, etc. Some researchers have estimated that80% of disease is stress related. Soothing and relaxing massage therapy canhelp reduce illness by counteracting stress effects.

Massage usually is not recommended for individuals with a circulatory problem; it could produce complications in individuals with high blood pressure or ahistory of heart trouble. Injury to bone can occur if massage is performed too soon after injury over an area of advanced osteoporosis or bone fracture.Also, in cases of cancer, massage is not used because an increase in circulation might help the cancer spread more rapidly. Severe diabetes, skin infection, tubercular joints, burns, or abrasions may also be indications to avoid massage.

When selecting a massage therapist, it is important to check credentials, including whether the therapist has graduated from a school approved by a credible accrediting agency, such as the Commission for Massage Training Accreditation (COMTA) and the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

Massage is a valuable tool in the management of many musculoskeletal disorders. While there are many forms of massage in use around the world, Swedish type massage is the type most commonly used in sports medicine in the United States. Sports medicine massage can be separated into five basic categories.

Massage can have adverse effects if not used properly, or if used over inappropriate areas. Massage will also have a negative effect if applied over an area that is infected. Massage over a recent injury may increase the inflammation and cause additional soft tissue injury. If an individual has poor circulation, a decrease or unwanted fluctuation in blood supply to critical areas ofthe body may occur. As noted, massage can produce abnormal blood flow in individuals with high blood pressure or a history of heart trouble. Injury to bone can occur if massage is performed too soon over a bone fracture, or over an area of advanced osteoporosis.

However, if applied properly and under the correct conditions, massage enhances muscle relaxation and increases circulation, resulting in the enhancementof the healing process.

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