If you’re in the mood for a relaxing afternoon, going for a massage is one of the best things you can do for your body. But relaxation isn’t the only thing massages are good for. They can be used for medical purposes and physiotherapy. Massage therapy is a well-known treatment of muscle tightness and soreness. Besides that, it can be used to increase circulation and minimize the effects of inflammation. However, stressed individuals and athletes are not the only people that can benefit from massage therapy.
When massage therapy is regularly applied to people with disabilities, it shows some positive effects and improves a lot of aspects of their lives. Depending on the disability type and severity, pairing a massage therapy with physio therapeutical exercises can have a positive impact on the future and daily life of people with disabilities.
1. What is massage therapy and how does it work?
Massage therapy is best described as a soft tissue manipulation. It includes kneading, pressing, rubbing, vibration, and tapping on the muscles using different methods such as massage therapist’s hands, massage gadgets, and massage chairs. It promotes overall well-being and helps with the treatment of many conditions and injuries.
The massage of soft tissue includes benefits such as increased blood and lymph circulation, stimulation of the weak muscles, enhancing range of motion, reduced back, neck and limb pain and aches, prevented or delayed muscle atrophy, reduced muscle tightness and stress. In addition to that, massage therapy has some positive effects on the central nervous system and intellectual aspects of the patient's life. Even though it stimulates weak muscles, it does not strengthen them, so it’s advised to combine it with exercises that can be done with limited mobility. Exercises that include strength and flexibility come with lots of positive aspects like building bone and muscle mass, increasing range of motion, and reducing stiffness and pain.
2. Who can benefit from massage therapy and what are the benefits?
To be completely honest, almost everyone who likes massages can benefit from one. There is nothing better than taking a weekend off and going for a general massage especially if your body is tense from strenuous and stressful work. People who suffer from chronic pain, low or increased muscle tone, tight muscles, and stress can benefit from a massage.
Besides that, massage therapy can have amazing physical benefits for people in wheelchairs. People in wheelchairs usually have leg muscles that are both weak and tightened due to the inactivity. On the other hand, their upper-body muscles are overused so they become painful and stiff. It’s quite stressful if your muscles are in pain, but you still have to use them to function properly. That's when massage therapy steps in and reduces this type of chronic pain. In addition to that, it improves blood flow and circulation helping different parts of the body heal faster. Furthermore, massage therapy can improve motion range and mobility. On top of that, it reduces the overall stress that daily life brings us.
3. Mental, developmental and neurological issues and massages
People with developmental and mental issues can find a massage comforting. Individuals with repetitive movement problems such as rocking, wringing, swaying, and those with irritability problems are great candidates for massage therapy and general massage. Massage helps people with other health issues, such as Cerebral Palsy, to reduce or increase muscle tone, relieve constipation and improve digestion, and improve sleep patterns. In addition to that, this kind of therapy may encourage motor function and muscle flexibility, enhance the range of motion in knees and elbows, and reduce spasticity.
Another example is people with neurological and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. This type of disease comes with various health problems and greatly affects the quality of a patient’s life. They experience symptoms like stiffness in limbs, difficulty walking, fatigue, muscle pain, and hypophonia. Hypophonia causes difficulties speaking as it affects vocal musculature. However, a thirty-minute massage by a licensed therapist mitigates symptoms and improves a range of motions.
4. Deep tissue massage and its benefits
Numerous types of massages exist; however, deep tissue massage is one of the most beneficial for people with physical health issues and disabilities. Deep tissue massage used to be popular amongst athletes. It is a recovery method from daily strenuous activities and exercises their bodies are going through.
As far as people with disabilities are concerned, this type of massage has numerous benefits for them too. Deep tissue massage techniques minimize both physical and psychological stress. When combined with relaxation breathing techniques, you get the winning combination and faster recovery if it's possible. This type of massage therapy enhances the body's ability to heal, eliminates pain and eases discomfort.
5. Active release therapy and its benefits
Active release therapy, also known as ART, is intended for both, athletes and people with disabilities. Unlike the deep tissue massage, ART is focused on the soft tissue and reducing the stress placed on joints and nerves. The main goal of ART is to improve mobility and glide between the muscular tissue and the nerves. Besides that, it stimulates lymph that reduces inflammation.
Benefits of this therapy include dealing with microtrauma, inflammation, and aging, which is caused by tissue wear-down; acute injuries, improving flexibility and joint mobility and improving nerve damage.
6. Massage chair therapy and its benefits
As previously stated, massage chair therapy is a form of therapeutic massage that is recommended for people with mild pain, tension, and strain on the connective tissues and muscles. It's popular amongst individuals who work strenuous jobs and have chronic pain. It also relieves stiffness and stimulates blood circulation.
The massage chair is suitable for almost everyone to use, from children, over pregnant women to the elderly. Even people with disabilities can use a massage chair that brings benefits to their physical and mental health. They suffer from stiff neck, back pain, legs and arms ache, and other chronic problems depending on the type and severity of the disability. This type of therapy is gentle and can help them minimize back pain and increase circulation to the neck providing them with temporary relief. On top of that, the massage chair will prevent muscle overuse injuries and subsequent fractures.
7. Social and emotional benefits of a massage
We covered every aspect of the physical benefits of each type of massage therapy provides. However, it does not only help with the physical aspects but with the social and emotional aspects too. People with disabilities often have very low self-esteem and are struggling with their body image which can cause them to isolate themselves from society.
Some types of therapies can be uncomfortable or even painful for the patient, on the other hand, massage therapy reduces pain, relaxes tension and the stress. It releases hormones called endorphins that elevate the mood and overall good feeling, reducing depression and anxiety.
Massage therapy can be beneficial for everyone, but it has special positive effects on the lives of people with disabilities. Depending on the type of the message, deep tissue, ART, or massage chair, it reduces back pain, improves mobility and flexibility, blood and lymph circulation and relaxes both, body and mind. Besides these physical benefits, massage therapy is good for improving the social and emotional aspects of an individual's life as it raises self-esteem and elevates the mood.
Image credit: Angelo Esslinger