Massage vs. Inflammation
Recently I have been putting a lot more emphasis in the role that inflammation plays when it comes to chronic pain in our bodies. Let's face it, pain is an inflammatory response. Whether it's from an acute injury or a lingering pain that just does not want to let go.
Inflammation is an immune response. It's main function is to promote healing in areas that need repair. I won't go into great detail on the mechanics of how that happens, but it's important to know that there is a place for inflammation. For example when you cut yourself, or injur soft tissue, there is an immediate response that can create swelling in that area temporarily. The problem is when the inflammation is persistent and chronic.
The sad truth is that many of us have persistent inflammation in our bodies but don't realize it. Chronic inflammation can manifest itself in our bodies from gut problems, chronic pain, tender flesh, limited range of motion, fatigue and so on. So what's responsible for this?
Your lymphatic system is responsible for the flow of lymph fluid through out our bodies. It's a huge part of our immune system and without it we would not survive. Our body is constantly being infiltrated with toxins and metabolic waste, and it is our lymphatic system that is responsible to mobilize and flush it all out. But when lymph fluid is stagnant it can accumulate in many areas, therefore creating unwanted inflammation. That unwanted inflammation can then elevate stress levels and create a cycle of constant discomfort.
How does lymph fluid become stagnant? Unlike our cardiovascular system, our lymphatic system does not have a pump. So in order to mobilize lymph fluid it depends on diaphragmatic breathing patterns and movement. The lymphatic system is composed of many vessels throughout our entire body, with lymph nodes located in very specific areas in our bodies like our joints. The main bulk of them are located in our neck, chest, and abdomen. In fact, one third alone are found in the neck region.
Breathing, muscle contractions, and mobilization of our joints act like a pump each time we move and breathe. This is another reason why regular exercise is so important for us, and why I stress regular joint mobility on a daily basis to my clients (message me if you'd like to learn a daily mobility routine to not only keep your joints healthy, but help reduce inflammation in your body).
What does all of this have to do with massage therapy? Massage therapy can help promote the flow of lymph fluid throughout your body. This is why sometimes after you have a massage you may feel like you're getting sick, but you don't. I wouldn't say it detoxes you, but mainly promotes the flow of fluid. Especially in areas where you may have stagnation and tender type pain. There is even such a thing as lymphatic drainage massage that aims to specifically mobilize lymph flow.
With many of my clients getting sick recently, I have personally included more lymphatic drainage massage techniques to help them recover quickly. These techniques include manually pumping areas where we have lymph nodes, especially the chest and abdomen region, and long mild strokes in very specific directions. The most interesting part I have been finding recently, is that this approach has been helping my clients with their chronic and acute pain conditions. You see, manual therapy helps to act like a pump in a very specific way, thus supporting better flow of lymph fluid through out your body.
Personally, I am fascinated by this and I will continue to explore this concept a lot more and see what the research has to say. I'm always looking for ways to help others with their pain and stress conditions, so this is another exciting approach.
Just another great reason why regular massage therapy can be beneficial for you. So if you have persistent pain, or just recovering from a cold or a flu, go get a massage!