Long Term Benefits of Massage
by Diane Pobocik, MFT, ACE Certified Trainer, NASM Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist
Sports massage is well-known to athletes who seek to enhance performance and speed recovery. However, the true extent to which massage can heal and correct the body is probably underestimated.
A properly executed massage can:
- Improve circulation
- Reduce acute pain associated with trigger points and myofascial restrictions
- Reduce adhesion and mobilize scar tissue
- Help remove lactic acids from muscle tissue
- Elongate muscle fibers
- Relieve spasms
- Improve stability, mobility, and motor functions by creating optimal length-tension relationships around a joint.
While these applications for massage can provide welcome and often immediate results, regular massage can provide many other long term benefits.
Diane Pobocik, a massage therapist and personal trainer at Zenergy Health Club and Spa, has a superior understanding of human physiology gained from her many years of experience and training in neuromuscular therapy, orthopedic manual therapy, sports massage, active isolated stretching, and corrective exercise.
By receiving regular massage, Pobocik notes, we can receive a host of benefits to all our body’s systems – not just our muscles. Massage can achieve this by stimulating the parasympathetic portion of our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).
Too Much of a Good Thing
The Autonomic Nervous System is incredibly complex. It regulates the involuntary vital functions of our bodies, so it maintains things like our heart beat, or our digestion. The ANS has two complimentary halves:
The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is what is associated with what we commonly call our “fight or flight” response. It could be considered the accelerator of our nervous system, and like a gas pedal in a car it uses lots of our body’s fuel when it is engaged.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is associated with our “rest and digest” response. We could consider it to serve as our refueling state of being.
Our bodies preferred natural nervous state is the PNS state because it is regenerative. Most people, however, find themselves stuck in a chronic sympathetic “flight of flight” state.
The Sympathetic Nervous system is our rapid response to danger, our survival mechanism. This danger might not be an environmental threat; the stress of athletic training and competition, deadlines and professional obligations, parental concerns, substance use and abuse, and the overall hectic pace of modern society can all serve to trigger this sympathetic survival response.
While the function of the SNS is essential to dealing with the dangers we may face, it’s only meant to operate for brief periods of time. If our SNS won’t disengage and allow our PNS to take over after a stressful event, it quickly becomes degenerative. There is growing evidence that many adverse health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, insomnia, gastrointestinal disorder, and Parkinson’s disease may be attributed to chronically elevated SNS activity.
Making a Deposit
Look at things this way: our bodies are like a bank account. The complicated chemistry of our body is like our available funds that support our day to day life. The SNS comes into our body’s bank account and makes withdrawals that can quickly leave our account overdrawn, without even the funds for our day-to-day expenses.
The PNS, on the other hand, makes deposits into our account, providing for our day-to-day and even creating savings in case of emergencies.
When the PNS is stimulated to function, energy is directed back to vital organs allowing our muscles to relax and heal. The PNS normalizes heart rate, endocrine function, and stimulates digestion and nutrient assimilation.
The Hidden Benefits
Massage can influence this shift from SNS to PNS, allowing the body to adapt and recover from stress. A healthy PNS response to massage can augment the repair of tissues and reduce the effects of overtraining. By receiving regular massage and assisting our body’s access to our PNS, we can restore balance, improve the circulation of blood and lymph, and promote healthy sleep patterns.
So, while the mechanical benefits of deep-tissue sports massage are no doubt valuable, there is no reason to doubt the health benefits of a simple, relaxing massage. Adding to the long list of benefits mentioned here, simply relaxing one’s mind and body during a massage releases neurotransmitters that combat depression, anxiety, stress, and fatigue. With more and more health practitioners recognizing stress as a major cause of illness and disease, it’s easy to see that regular massages might greatly enhance or even save one’s life.
A massage booked at Zenergy comes with same-day access to all the club has to offer, including over 85 weekly classes, so look for a stretching class, enjoy the health club, and double up on the deposit you’re making into your body’s bank account. Book a massage at zenergysv.com, or call 208-725-0595 x2 to match your needs to one of Zenergy’s many therapists and their varied practices.