Physiology and Massage Therapy

Massage therapy requires what is literally a hands-on approach to health care.

Through the process of stretching, rubbing, and applying pressure to appropriate areas of muscle, the therapist is able to increase the function of the body as well as to further the client’s overall health.

In order to do all this, however, any good massage therapist needs to understand the many functions of the body and how they interrelate, which enables the massage work to be tailored to the client’s specific needs and issues. With a thorough understanding of physiology, the therapist can develop and adapt treatments on an individual basis that bring the body back to a healthier state.

What is Physiology?

In a nutshell, physiology is the science of the physical, mechanical, and biochemical functions of the healthy human body. With a thorough understanding of how the body is meant to work as a whole, the massage therapist is better able to determine what is causing the client’s health issues. Only then can he or she incorporate strategies to treat the client in a way that restores the functions of a healthy human body.

Why is Physiology Important?

It’s one thing to be trained on how to work on the human body, but it’s quite another to couple that training with a true working knowledge of how the functions of the body interrelate. Much like the difference between rote memorization and true, deep understanding, physiology allows the massage therapist to understand why certain treatments work, and to fully comprehend why they are successful and under what circumstances. Without this knowledge, massage therapists are unable to adapt treatment plans and options based on new information gathered during therapy, much less to fully realize the ramifications of the work they are doing on their clients.

Medical massage is one area where the physiology of massage is incredibly important. While massage to relax muscles or to treat stress requires an understanding of muscle formation and the health of connective tissue, medical massage is often meant to treat deeper issues. From loosening scar tissue to developing greater flexibility and range of motion in damaged limbs and muscles, medical massage requires the therapist to understand how mot just the muscles work in unison, but how they and the treatment are affecting the body as a whole.

Applying Physiology to Massage Therapy

In a sense, massage therapy is the art of physiology. In few other treatments is the body so intensely kneaded, stretched, and conditioned in order to work the muscles and connective tissue. In turn, massage is known to increase lymph function, improve circulation, and to reduce stress levels throughout the body. While there are many other benefits of massage on the human body, it is these that most clearly show the relation between massage therapy and the biochemical aspect of physiology, as it is the mechanical, physical, and biochemical relation between massage therapy and the body that make it so effective.

All massage therapy applies physiology, but it is certainly beneficial to do so consciously. When the therapist uses his or her understanding of the mechanics of the body and they way the muscles interrelate, he or she is using physiology. When the therapist takes the time to think through the client’s health concerns and to develop a plan of therapy that will, with treatment, increase muscle and bodily function, he or she is applying a knowledge of physiology to the task.

All forms of physical therapy require a working knowledge of human physiology so that the therapist can work with the client to increase health and function. Without this knowledge, the therapist could inadvertently do more harm than good while trying to treat the client. Many therapies take time to see concrete results, so it is important that the therapist understand the natural rates of healing, growth, and treatment progress for the human body. It is through the study of physiology in conjunction with the nuances of each individual case that the massage therapist is able to make this happen.

Physiology and massage therapy are so intricately linked that it is hard to envision massage without this understanding of the mechanics and biochemistry of the human body. A massage therapist needs to be able to understand how the treatment they are giving is affecting not just their clients’ bodies, but how these treatments work on bodies in general. With this keen understanding, massage professionals can adapt treatments and modalities to suit the needs of their individual clients, and to know that as they offer treatment that they are doing good for the client instead of accidental harm.

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