If you’ve read my blog before, you know that massage has incredible effects on all areas of your body, and can be a complimentary treatment for just about all medical conditions. Massage provides positive outcomes for each of the twelve systems of the body. In order to understand how massage can help you and any illnesses you may have, it is important that you understand how the systems of your body work and what effects massage has on them. Check back on my blog weekly for a series of entries on each body system. This week: Your respiratory system.
HOW DOES THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM WORK?
The respiratory system consists of many structures whose primary goal is to intake oxygen to the body, and expel waste in the form of carbon dioxide. These structures include (among others) the nasal and oral cavities, the paranasal sinuses, the trachea, the lungs, the diaphragm, and the ribs. The respiratory system is important because most cell functions include oxygen. We need oxygen to sustain life. In fact, after about four minutes without oxygen, we would die.
Oxygen is taken in by either the nasal or oral cavity, passes through the paranasal sinuses (responsible for temperature regulation), travel down the trachea (or windpipe), gets filtered in the bronchial tubes before it finally reaches the lungs. Inside the lungs, the aveoli (small sacs inside the lobes of the lungs) exchange the incoming oxygen with outgoing carbon dioxide, which is a waste gas. During intake of air, the diaphragm, which is a small dome-shaped muscle under your rib cage, flattens. Your intercostal muscles (the muscles between each rib) push the rungs of your rib cage further apart. This creates more room in your chest, allowing your lungs to expand as air enters them. When your exhale, your intercostal muscles relax, bringing your ribs closer together, and your diaphragm expands, which effectively pushes air out of your lungs.
WHAT DOES MASSAGE DO FOR YOUR RESPIRATORY SYSTEM?
The most obvious advantage of massage for your respiratory system is the improvement in your posture. As massage allows your muscles to relax and open up, they are less restrictive on your skeleton. This allows you to stand more upright, and broadens the space between your shoulders. This relieves pressure that may have been put on your lungs and organs by a compacted skeleton and tight muscles.
Beyond that, you have a few muscles that serve as accessories to respiration. Recall how your diaphragm and intercostal muscles move your skeleton to allow breathing. When your accessory muscles are tight, your breathing can be restricted. Massage will relieve the tension in the muscles that are causing this restriction, allowing you to breathe easier.
Receiving regular massage also helps to regulate your respiration, making the breaths you take deeper, longer, and more regular. Asthma patients who receive regular massage experience fewer asthma attacks than those who do not.
I will once again remind you that you should not consider massage a form of alternative medicine; it is only complimentary. You should always follow the instructions of your primary care physician. If you have a respiratory disorder, and you’re not sure if massage is appropriate, you may address these concerns with your doctor. However as I’ve said before, massage is not yet known to be harmful to any pathology. In fact, it has been shown to be beneficial for every disorder studied, according to Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute in Miami. Massage can have great benefits for your body. Breath better with regular massage sessions!
The Body Systems Series