Knead a Cure For The Winter Chills? Try Massage!
Written by Kylie Ainworth, Remedial Massage Therapist
Winter is in full-force and for many of us that means hot tea, fuzzy jumpers and extra blankets. It can also mean more time spent indoors, less time spent being active and a case of the “winter blues” when the grey skies and cold winds roll in.
The good news is that massage therapy can be a great way to help you through the winter season – and not just by getting you out of the cold for an hour and into a nice warm treatment room (although that’s really nice too!). It has long been held that massage therapy can help boost your circulation and even your immune system.
Why is this important? To address that question, let’s take a quick look at what the circulatory system does for you:
The circulatory system is a transport system that facilitates blood and lymph flow throughout the body, which in turn allows for nutrients, oxygen, hormones and blood cells to be delivered to where they need to be in order to help keep us healthy and fighting off disease – both incredibly important functions during the winter colds and flu season!
Blood is circulated throughout the body by the heart and carries oxygen and nutrients as well as carrying waste products away from body tissues. Lymph, on the other hand, moves through the body much more slowly than blood and relies on muscle contractions in order to do so. The lymphatic system plays an important part in the immune system as it carries white blood cells that help fight disease.
So we want our circulatory system to be healthy and supported so it can help keep us healthy! How can massage therapy help with this?
Muscles contract to conserve heat, which restricts the blood flow and prevents nutrients from reaching the muscle cells. Massage therapy can help break this cycle by stimulating circulation and encouraging blood flow through the specific application of soft tissue manipulation. Healthier blood flow means more nutrients being delivered to muscle cells and more efficient waste removal.
Given that lymph is moved through the body primarily as a result of muscular contractions, one of the enemies of strong lymphatic flow is inactivity. Massage therapy, being a form of positive soft tissue manipulation, is said to help combat the effects of inactivity by promoting the movement of lymph.
It is also said that the chemicals released in response to the invitation to relax, such as during a massage, also help provide a boost to circulation and immune systems.
And finally, studies conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago have produced positive results substantiating the claim that massage can indeed have a beneficial impact on the circulatory system: http://www.ninacheriephd.com/you-your-body-and-your-health/does-massage-therapy-really-improve-blood-flow