Massage and Pain

Massage Therapy and Effects of Massage

Massage therapy has been shown to be an effective way to improve physical and mental health. There are many types of therapeutic massage that can help promote the health and well-being of individuals. Massage can decease muscle soreness by reducing swelling and stopping the release of bradykinins and prostaglandins from inflammatory white blood cells. Prostaglandins are known to enhance the inflammatory and nociceptive action of other chemical mediators of inflammation such as bradykinins. Massage increases muscle repair by promoting cell growth and reduces inflammation from work or exercise-induced muscle damage by blocking the production of inflammatory cytokines (important small proteins that signal cells such as TNF-alpha, IL-6, and HSP27). Research shows that massage improves muscle repair after musculoskeletal injuries and strains. Soft tissue massage is one of the modalities that involves direct physical action on the muscle and other soft tissues of the body, targeting muscles, tendons, ligaments, or other connective tissue such as fascia. Soft tissue massage aims to alleviate aches, pains, and injuries that are attributed to the body’s soft tissues and can be a great tool to release adhesion and promote microcirculation if the soft tissue.

What is pain and inflammation?

If you ever experience pain, redness, swelling, heat, or loss of function, you are experiencing inflammation. Inflammation is a defense mechanism in the body. The immune system recognizes damaged cells, irritants, and pathogens, and it begins the healing process. When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological response to try to remove it. The signs and symptoms of inflammation can be uncomfortable but are an indication that the body is trying to heal itself.

Inflammation is a process by which the body release chemicals from white blood cells into the blood or affected tissues to protect your body from foreign substances. This release of chemicals increases the blood flow to the area of injury or infection and may result in redness and warmth. Some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. This protective process may stimulate nerves and cause pain.

The increased number of cells and inflammatory substances within a joint can cause irritation, swelling of the joint lining, and eventually a wearing down of cartilage (cushions at the end of bones).

It can be beneficial when, for example, your knee sustains a blow and tissues need care and protection. However, sometimes inflammation can persist longer than necessary causing more harm than benefit.

The effects of acute inflammation can be summed up by the acronym PRISH. They include:

  • Pain: The inflamed area is likely to be painful, especially during and after touching. Chemicals that stimulate nerve endings are released, making the area more sensitive.
  • Redness: This occurs because the capillaries in the area are filled with more blood than usual.
  • Immobility: There may be some loss of function in the region of the inflammation.
  • Swelling: This is caused by a buildup of fluid.
  • Heat: More blood flows to the affected area, and this makes it feel warm to the touch.

These five acute inflammation signs only apply to inflammations of the skin. If inflammation occurs deep inside the body, such as in an internal organ, only some of the signs may be noticeable.

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