Respiratory Problems ~ How Massage Can Help
There aren’t very many people who, at first glance, would think of the lungs and respiratory system as gaining any great benefit from massage therapy, but those people are far from accurate. Massage therapy, when conducted by a skilled practitioner, can create some wonderful and helpful results when it comes to your lungs and ability to breathe more effi…ciently.
The respiratory system’s function is to allow oxygen exchange through all parts of the body. The space between the alveoli and the capillaries, the anatomy or structure of the exchange system, and the precise physiological uses of the exchanged gases vary depending on organism. In humans and other mammals, for example, the anatomical features of the respiratory system include airways, lungs, and the respiratory muscles. Molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide are passively exchanged, by diffusion, between the gaseous external environment and the blood. This exchange process occurs in the alveolar region of the lungs.
Other animals, such as insects, have respiratory systems with very simple anatomical features, and in amphibians even the skin plays a vital role in gas exchange. Plants also have respiratory systems but the directionality of gas exchange can be opposite to that in animals. The respiratory system in plants also includes anatomical features such as holes on the undersides of leaves known as stomata.
To have a great benefit on the respiratory system, the muscles around your torso, including the diaphragm (your main respiratory muscle) and intercostals muscles (between the ribs) must be massaged. Most people don’t immediately think about these muscles when considering whether or not they want to have a massage. You need to have an established and trusting relationship with your massage therapist before allowing him or her to work in this area of your body, due to sensitivity and emotional issues that can arise when working near the chest. Females, especially, need to be cautious, due to the proximity of the breast tissue. A good therapist, however, knows how to use proper draping (covering) techniques to avoid exposure and will discuss any sensitive issues or concerns with you prior to the massage.
Massage therapy impacts the respiratory system by increasing your pulmonary functions. The loosening of the often tight respiratory muscles allows them to move more freely which will in turn aid your breathing by allowing the lungs to expand and contract without inhibition. Your ability to inhale and exhale will be enhanced, allowing oxygen an easier path into your body and carbon dioxide and easier path out.
Relaxed respiratory muscles contribute to a lower respiratory rate, or number of breaths you take per minute. If your muscles aren’t constricted, your lung capacity will increase. You’ll find yourself taking longer and deeper breaths instead of short and shallow breaths. For the same time, those who generally feel short of breath, also known as dyspnea, should not feel short of breath as much or as often.
Another great benefit on the respiratory system is the decrease in asthma attacks experience by those who have had regular massage therapy. This relates back to the relaxation of the muscles and the improved pulmonary function. We’ve given the lungs a chance to relax and work more efficiently and individuals who have regular massage treatments find that they are less dependent on their inhalers or asthma medications.
Massage therapy also helps to reduce tension around the larynx by reducing the tension in the muscles of the neck and throat region. Singers and public speakers take note – you use more muscles when you speak and sing thank you think – taking care of these muscles might just help you increase the longevity of your career!
Certain massage techniques can and will help increase fluid discharge from the lungs by loosening phlegm, especially when certain tapping or tapotement techniques are done on the back. Unfortunately, if you have a respiratory ailment that causes fluid buildup in the lungs, you shouldn’t approach this as a therapy without the aid of a trained respiratory therapist. A good massage therapist will not start banging on your back with the intention of loosening phlegm without a strong knowledge base concerning your medical history. Otherwise, massage may be an excellent addition to the therapies you are using to control your respiratory illness.
With that said, I’ll again remind you that you should always check with your doctor and/or massage therapist to determine if massage is right for you. Always disclose your full medical history to your massage therapist. Until next time, be safe and relaxed!
- The Magic of Massage Therapy (everydayhealth.com)
- Treat your self to a Massage! (rhvillegas.wordpress.com)
- Why people seek massage. (rhvillegas.wordpress.com)