Massage for Healthy Bodies, Inside and Out

By: StacyAtZeel

It looks like we have some science-y readers out there. Because while some think of massage only as a way to relax and unwind, others are wondering how bodywork can benefit the integumentary (organs like skin, hair and nails), respiratory (your airways and lungs) and cardiovascular (the heart, blood and vessels) systems.Massage may be used for more than muscle.Massage may be used for more than muscle.

No need to hit the books, thanks to Chavez Walden, the South Carolina-based expert massage therapist with all the answers. As Chavez knows, massage can be beneficial in many aspects. Here's what he has to say.

Integumentary System
What it is: Your skin, hair, fingernails and other protective barriers.

Benefits of Massage: Move beyond the surface of your skin and you'll come across another protective barrier known as the fascia-a water-based substance that separates muscle groups. When the fascia cools, it becomes gel-like. Friction from a massage will provide the heat necessary to warm up the fascia, returning it to a more liquid-and therefore relaxed-state.

By loosening the fascia, you can improve the flexibility and elasticity of the skin. This is especially helpful for pregnant women, as it can aid in reducing stretch marks. Other benefits: Massage therapists who utilize creams, oils and lotions that contain essential vitamins and nutrients can further enhance the quality of your skin through massage.

Respiratory System
What it is: The primary means by which blood and oxygen circulate the body.

Benefits of Massage: Breathing is so much more than a simple inhale and exhale. In fact, there are several muscles that attach to the ribcage, called the secondary respiratory muscles. As with any other muscle in the body, when the secondary respiratory muscles are relaxed through massage, they function more effectively.

Your secondary respiratory muscles are constantly in use. Releasing the tension of the diaphragm or intercostals will allow the rib cage to expand further, resulting in the ability to breathe more deeply and with less effort.

Cardiovascular System
What it is: Your heart and blood vessels, as well as all the blood pumping between them.

Benefits of Massage: The heart itself is a muscle, and as you probably know, it doesn't take breaks. Since that's the case, a full body massage can be extremely beneficial.

Strokes that involve friction create heat as each part of the body is kneaded. Heat then causes the vascular walls of your veins and arteries to expand, allowing blood to flow more freely. As the expansion becomes more widespread, your heart will require less effort to pump blood throughout the body, ultimately decreasing the number of heartbeats your body requires to function per minute.