How Massage Therapy Helps Heal Chronic Inflammation
Massage therapy, which can significantly reduce pain (and the experience of pain), can also reduce inflammation and accompanying risk factors. This allows the body to heal itself. When a body is injured, the inflammation response is a good thing; it helps the injured area to heal. But when inflammation becomes chronic and long-term, health declines and the risk of debilitating diseases increases.
Our bodies are biologically built to heal themselves, and they have an amazing system to do this: the inflammatory process. According to many medical sources, an injured area typically has a three-month “acute healing” phase followed by a two-year phase of long-term healing, which is often accompanied by lower-level inflammation.
However, the health challenge occurs when this long-term healing phase does not complete, and inflammation becomes chronic and continuing. Then, if the body is re-injured, infection occurs, or chronic disease begins, it is difficult for the immune system to both alleviate pain and attend to all the other areas of disease. As Amy Bradley Radford summarizes, “The body can either fight pain or heal. It does not do both at the same time very well.”
Fortunately, in these situations, massage therapy can bring much relief, both by alleviating pain during and after sessions and, most significantly, by allowing the body to direct more of its immune-system resources to healing the body’s deeper, underlying issues.
Imagine that the body is a firefighter who can now stop putting out a bunch of little wildfires (pains from inflammation) and begin the deeper work of planting trees and restoring the forest (the healing of underlying issues). Skilled massage therapy helps “put out the fires” by helping the body experience a drop in heart rate and nerve impulses, a change in hormone output that soothes the body, a reduction in physical pain and emotional/mental stress and improved lymph drainage. The body rests—and takes care of the rest.
When working with chronic inflammation issues, it is very important to receive massage therapy from a skilled therapist with the experience and knowledge of a variety of modalities, who can carefully choose the right treatment and tailor the levels of pressure for each area of the body.