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Massage Therapy and Cardiovascular Health

Massage Therapy and Cardiovascular Health

Massage and Cardiovascular Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in every 4 American deaths is directly related to heart disease. Conditions like coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and other cardiovascular ailments kill over 600,000 people each year.

Massage therapy offers clients with cardiovascular issues many benefits that can help them improve their cardiovascular health and reduce their risk of stroke and heart attack.

What Contributes to Cardiovascular Disease?

There are three major factors that contribute to the development of heart disease.

  1. Congenital Conditions

These conditions are caused by structural abnormalities present at the time of birth.

  1. Viral infections

Myocarditis is damage to the heart due to certain viruses.

  1. Lifestyle Choices

Daily habits are currently the biggest contributor to heart disease.

  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Chronic stress

How Stress and Pain Affect the Heart

When a person experiences a painful or stressful event, the brain releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These chemicals prepare the body to fight or run away from dangerous situations. The body responds by tensing muscles, shortening the breath, and increasing the heart rate.

This response, however, is only supposed to be short-term. Too much of these hormones can fatigue the body, especially the cardiovascular system. Without relief, long-term stress or chronic pain will weaken the heart muscle. Combined with less-than-healthy lifestyle choices, these factors can lead to heart disease.

How Massage Supports Cardiovascular Health

Massage therapy helps patients with cardiac issues address some of the factors that may be contributing to their condition. In conjunction with doctor-prescribed protocols, massage also helps patients manage some of the side effects of treatment.

  • Induce states of physical and mental relaxation, which can help alleviate the effects of chronic stress and anxiety on the whole body.
  • Loosen tight muscles and increase blood flow, which improves overall circulation and decreases the chances of stroke-causing clots.
  • Alleviate chronic pain, which helps interrupt the brain’s “fight or flight” response.
  • Reduce anxiety before or after surgical procedures.

Some common side effects from traditional drug therapies used to treat heart disease can be treated effectively with massage.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches

Precautions

While massage is generally safe and effective, there are some cautions to keep in mind when working with cardiac patients.

  • Those on blood thinning drugs should avoid vigorous or deep tissue techniques, as these can cause bruising, inflammation, or tissue damage.
  • Massage is not recommended for those with low blood pressure.
  • Patients with a history of blood clots should avoid Swedish techniques.
  • Therapists should avoid manipulating the area around pacemakers, stents, or other implanted devices.
  • Patients with signs of congestive heart failure should start with short massages, and slowly work up to longer sessions, as tolerated.

Recent studies also who that consistent massage therapy can reduce blood pressure and heart rate. High blood pressure and rate are major factors in heart attack risk.

Patients who combine traditional medical treatments with massage techniques experience an increase in energy, physical relaxation, and mental focus. This can help them recover faster from surgical procedures, or avoid major cardiovascular events.

Scoliosis and Massage Therapy

Scoliosis and Massage Therapy

Scoliosis massage

Over 30% of the American population has some form of scoliosis. You may have already helped clients who suffer from this condition in your regular bodywork or therapy practice. While traditional treatments vary, massage therapy is a safe addition to any client’s treatment plan.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition of the spine. It causes the spine to curve left or right into a distinctive “S” or “C” shape. The spine compresses. This compression throws off the patient’s balance, and can contribute to a variety of health complications.

  • Sore, painful muscles
  • Difficult, stiff movement
  • Hunch back
  • Lung and heart problems
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness

If left untreated, the spine will continue to curve. This can lead to nerve, joint, and ligaments damage, as well as permanent disability.

What Causes Scoliosis?

Most scoliosis cases are classified as idiopathic. That means there is no known cause.

For about 20% of cases, doctors can point to a definite root condition. These cases are classified as structural or non-structural.

Structural scoliosis causes the spine to bend into a rigid curve that cannot be corrected. It is caused by underlying conditions like

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Birth defects
  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Marfan’s or Down Syndrome, or similar genetic disorders

The spine of a patient suffering from non-structural scoliosis works normally. The characteristic curve is caused by injury, weakness, or illness of surrounding body parts. When the cause is treated, non-structural scoliosis generally disappears.

Scoliosis can also be developed while still in the womb. Congenital damage to growing vertebrae can cause the spine to curve, not divide properly, or not grow completely. Some patients with congenital scoliosis are not diagnosed until they are between the ages of 10 and 15. During this time, many children go through several growth spurts, which makes structural malformations more noticeable.

Degenerative scoliosis is caused by the wearing of joints and discs in adults. Their damaged joints cause the surrounding muscles to strain, which leads to a curved spine.

Massage Therapy for Scoliosis Patients

While scoliosis massage cannot correct curved or twisted bones, including the spine, it can help clients reduce pain and increase mobility.

  • Massage relaxes muscles that are pulled out of place by shifted bone structures, which can significantly calm tight, uncomfortable sensations.
  • Deep tissue techniques increase blood circulation and break up scar tissues, which makes it easier for patients to move freely.
  • Patients who receive massage prior to chiropractic or neuromuscular therapies report better results from these treatments.
  • Massage is known to soothe the mind as well as the body. A decrease in mental stress is linked to a better ability to deal with chronic pain issues.

Early and regular scoliosis massage therapy, in conjunction with standard medical treatments like exercise and the use of a brace, can help scoliosis patients avoid complicated surgeries.

There is no cure for scoliosis. However, it is highly manageable. The goal of treatment is to reduce the progression of spine curvature, reduce discomfort, and restore or improve mobility. Scoliosis Massage therapy can help your client achieve these goals more quickly than with standard treatments alone.