Massage can help alleviate pain
A lot of research has been conducted which shows that massage can be effective in alleviating many different types of pain. In fact if you’re looking for a way to reduce your reliance on pain medication, massage might be your solution.
How massage can reduce pain
Muscles: One of the first things massage does is to normalise and relax your muscles. This stops them from being tight and stiff which can give you pain in the muscles and on nearby joints. By relaxing your muscles, a massage can reduce the strain on your joints, reducing joint strain and stiffness and immobility.
Toxins: A massage is also good at removing lactic acid and toxins that build up in your muscles, thus reducing fatigue and stiffness.
Adhesions: Massage can help your other soft tissue, not just your muscles – so things like tendons, ligaments and fascia. For example adhesions often form between fascia and muscles which restrict movement, causing pain when you move. Massage can remove these adhesions.
Pressure receptors: There is another less obvious benefit of massage when it comes to reducing pain. We all have pressure receptors under our skin that convey signals to the brain; studies have shown that massage stimulates these receptors, sending a signal to the brain to alleviate the pain.
Hormones: It also sends a signal to release beneficial stress-reducing hormones like serotonin (known as the “happiness hormone”) which can help with the emotional reaction to the pain you are feeling.
Does this work on headaches too?
Some research has looked specifically at headaches. The science isn’t quite there in terms of producing definitive conclusions, but one theory is that a head massage can improve blood flow to the brain, which can relieve the physical source of the headache. A massage will also stimulate the pressure receptors (explained above) which will send signals to the brain telling it to reduce the pain.
The other thing to remember is that our heads have muscles too, and when tension builds up in our neck and shoulders this often spreads to our heads, causing headaches. A good head massage can reduce that tension and therefore the headaches. And let’s not forget the stress-reducing effect of a massage. Many headaches are caused by stress and a good massage can help reduce that stress, with positive results for the headache.