Massage and Bodywork by Taplin Arant, LMT
Understanding Musculoskeletal Pain
Our bodies are built for dynamic movement. Movement promotes circulation and helps keep our muscles and tissues nourished and pliable. Most of us these days spend hours at a desk or in a car, which disrupts our bodies’ ability to keep a healthy balance.
Maintaining one position for long periods of time (chronic positioning) creates restrictions in tissues and imbalance in muscle tone surrounding joints. As the tissues become restricted (feeling stiff), local blood flow decreases. This prevents efficient delivery of fresh nutrients to tissues and wastes (metabolic byproducts) from being removed from tissues. Surrounding muscle and tissues may tighten further in response, which further decreases blood flow, may lead to muscle knots (trigger points) and areas of tenderness.
How Massage Therapy Can Help
Manual manipulation that is provided by massage therapy can soften the tissues, aid in restoring healthy blood flow, and decrease the sensation pain and combat imbalance in muscle tone.
Our stress response has evolved to keep our bodies primed to face challenges and danger. Things have changed, (rarely do we run from tigers) but the stress response remains, triggered by commuting, deadlines and taxes. Logically we know these are different, but our bodies don't. Chronic stress can have a significant negative impact on our health.
The autonomic nervous system maintains physiological processes like heart rate, breathing, and digestion.There are two divisions, the sympathetic “fight or flight” division (stress response,) and the parasympathetic "rest and digest” division. In times of stress, the sympathetic division releases hormones that cause cascades of reactions like increased blood sugar, heart rate, and blood pressure. To budget resources, non-emergency systems like digestion and immune systems, are turned down. This is a useful response, if you have to run from a tiger.
During restful times, the parasympathetic division restores balance. It turns up non-emergency systems and works to reverse stress effects. Blood sugar, heart rate and blood pressure return to normal.
Since we live in a high stress culture, full of hard work, long hours and traffic, we continuously flood our bodies with signals to be ready for action. Autonomic functions are out of balance with too much sympathetic activity and not enough parasympathetic activity. Over time, this can lead to poor immune function (more sick days), high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
How Massage Therapy Can Help
Regular massage therapy can aid in down regulating sympathetic dominance and up regulating parasympathetic activity. This gives the body time to restore its balance and can promote healthy physiological and emotional well being.