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Swedish Massage: Toward the Heart, Good for the Heart

Massage therapy has long been recognized as a means of bringing about feelings of peace and relaxation and reducing stress. While there are numerous techniques and methods, one of the most popular and most beneficial massage modalities is Swedish massage.

Swedish massage, known in Europe as classic massage, involves the use of long, gliding strokes and firm kneading movements on the soft tissues (muscles) of the body. All strokes move in the same direction as the blood flows toward the heart. Sometimes, passive or active joint movements (bending and rotation) are also used to loosen the ligaments and fascia.

The primary goals of Swedish massage are to relax the muscles and improve blood and lymph circulation. But Swedish massage therapy goes beyond relaxation. Swedish massage is exceptionally beneficial for increasing the level of oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle toxins, improving circulation and flexibility and easing built-up tension.

A study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and published in The New York Times found that study participants who received a 50-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as arginine vasopressin – a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. Participants also showed an increase in the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells that are part of the immune system) and a boost in the immune cells that help fight colds and the flu.

Swedish massage techniques also stimulate skin receptors that send messages of relaxation to the central nervous system. These relaxation reflexes cause vasodilation – the blood vessels widen to decrease blood pressure and heart rate and increase blood and oxygen flow throughout the body. Therefore, Swedish massage strokes can help reduce hypertension (high blood pressure), which is one of the most prominent forecasters of cardiovascular disease.

Getting a massage on a regular basis (once or more a month) is a great addition to other heart-healthy lifestyle behaviors such as not smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly, including 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a week of aerobic (heartbeat raising) activity.

The benefits of massage are known worldwide. Korean researchers recently published a study that shows the impact massage has on the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system responsible for control of the bodily functions not consciously directed such as breathing, heartbeat and digestive processes). The Yonsei Medical Journal reports, “regular massage therapy sessions were found to induce relaxation to the autonomic nervous system as confirmed by lowered cortisol and norepinephrine (fight or flight) levels.

Furthermore, a recent Massage Today article described how massage can literally create more space for the heart within the thorax (chest cavity). The article explains “space is created by increasing the suppleness and length of the soft tissues within the chest and around the heart, and releases muscular tightness and restrictions in the chest, rib and thoracic areas, which allows the heart to function with great ease, therefore improving overall cardiovascular health.”

February is National Heart Month and Valentine’s Day. Show your heart and the heart of others some love by giving yourself and them the gift of a heart-healthy massage from Massage Envy. FBN

By Mark Love

For more information on the benefits of massage and to schedule an appointment with a massage therapist, visit MassageEnvy.com or call 928-778-ENVY (3689).

 

 

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