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 muscular system.
HOW DOES THE MUSCULAR SYSTEM WORK?
You have three types of muscles in your body: skeletal, smooth, and cardiac. Although they all perform a different function, they all share one thing in common – they are responsible for moving something.
The smooth muscles are involuntary – you don’t need to consciously think about them in order for them to move. They are found inside your internal organs, such as the stomach, intestines, bladder, and blood vessels. The muscles in the stomach churn consumed food, and the muscles in the other organs move substances through your body.
The cardiac muscle is exactly what it sounds like – it is the heart muscle responsible for contracting the heart to pump blood. Cardiac muscles are also involuntary.
This article is about skeletal muscles, as the benefits for smooth and cardiac muscles were discussed in my blog posts about other body systems.
There are 650 skeletal muscles in the human body. Skeletal muscles are voluntary muscles, which means they don’t move unless your conscious brain tells them to. These muscles are attached to your skeleton, and are responsible for moving it.Contraction of these muscles cause the fibers to shorten, thereby creating movement.
Skeletal muscles provide your body with the sturdiness to stand upright, and also assist your skeleton in providing the framework of your body. These are the muscles directly related to posture; they are the ones that get chronically shortened with habitual poor posture.
Besides moving the body, these muscles also provide a layer of protection. When a body part receives an injury such as a surgical incision or broken bone, the muscles in the surrounding area react to this stress by tightening up. This is to restrict the movement in the area in an attempt to prevent further injury.
These muscles also provide insulation, as contraction releases energy in the form of heat. This is why you shiver when your cold. Shivering is caused by tiny, quick muscle contractions. This releases heat in an attempt to keep you warm.
WHAT DOES MASSAGE DO FOR YOUR MUSCULAR SYSTEM
Unfortunately, massage has absolutely no benefits for the muscular system.
Just kidding! How weird would that be?
As you would assume, massage has incredible benefits for the muscular system!
Regular massage can release built up muscular tension, thereby relieving pain and stiffness. It can also reduce the frequency and severity of muscular spasms and cramps. This, in turn, helps to improve posture, release muscle knots, and increase range of motion. Increased range of motion means less likelihood of hyper-extension injuries.
Massage helps return injured muscles or muscles that have been tightened in response to injury to their original state. On top of that, regular massage will result in increased circulation of nutrients needed for muscle cells to perform their cellular work.
Pre-event sports massage helps to warm muscles up and increase athletic performance, while post-event massage helps to prevent stiffness and injury.
It should be noted that, although massage therapists claim that massage can reduce lactic acid, this is not true. It was once thought that lactic acid build up caused delayed-onset muscle soreness, and that massage could remove this substance from muscles. It is now known that not only does massage not decrease amounts of lactic acid, but lactic acid is not what causes muscle soreness. That is a blog topic for another post, though!
Through the benefits it provides for your muscular system, massage also helps other body systems, such as the skeletal and digestive systems. Massage is a powerful tool to have in your health care arsenal, and while it is a great complementary treatment for many pathologies, it should not be considered alternative. Please always follow the advice of your primary care physician.
The Body Systems Series
Benefits of massage on the Muscular System by Thomas Goodrich
Does Massage Remove Lactic Acid? by Alice Sanvito
How Muscles Work and How They Respond to Resistance Exercise by Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM & Richard Weil, MEd, CDE