Massage therapy and evidence

There has been growing research in registered massage therapy and how/why it works. 

So far, what we’ve mostly learned is that a lot of old narratives were inaccurate.

From what I’ve read, so far there’s been more debunking what we thought was going on than actual answers about what IS going on. For example;

We now know that ‘trigger points’ aren’t what we thought they were. In fact, we don’t know what they are – only that these tender spots tend to have common referrals patterns in most people and are often found in similar locations on most bodies. 

We also know that fascial cannot be ‘released’ or stretched. We know that the manual techniques we’ve used for years that we thought were releasing fascia still give people relief and results… We just don’t know why. 

In my humble opinion, regardless of the ‘why’, the important thing is that massage therapy does help people. Also, it’s not typically an invasive or aggressive approach to care, so the risks of causing harm are very low. 

Personally, I think that the reason massage therapy works is very simple:

People get quality one-to-one time to feel heard and cared for. They receive human contact, and that contact (the techniques and pressure used) is tailored to what that person responds to best. They feel safe, cared for, heard, validated and most importantly, their nervous system is given the opportunity to chill out.

I think that pretty much all of the actual physiological effects that a massage provides – decreased muscle tension, decreased blood pressure, improved ease of movement, pain relief – all happen as a direct result of the person’s nervous system going into ‘rest and digest mode’. 

I think that people’s systems essentially ‘fix’ or ‘reset’ themselves – we massage therapists simply provide an environment and a stimulus to facilitate it. 

This blog entry was written by Heather and is based on what she has seen work and not work for her clientele for over a decade. She is a career student who keeps her massage and yoga therapy training current, and does her best to keep up with the newest research and evidence that is constantly being released.

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