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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

Massage Tips and Trivia: Massage Therapy can speed healing and reduce the risk of re-injury

"Massage Therapy can help speed the healing of tissues, rehabilitate and reduce restrictions thus reducing the risk of re-injury"

Whenever we hear the word "injury" what usually comes to mind is something kind of extreme: a broken bone, a sprained ankle, or a chronic condition like carpal tunnel. In reality, we can injure ourselves in very minor ways and sometimes without even knowing it. Something as small as lifting a heavy grocery bag, stumbling over a crack in the sidewalk, or tweaking your neck while sneezing, all can also be counted as injuries. They are not extreme, but still hit under the definition.

So what exactly is an injury? The definition is, "Hurt, damage, or loss sustained" {Merriam-Webster} or "Physical harm or damage done to a living thing" {Cambridge English Dictionary}. Basically, an injury is when something is damaged or doesn't work right for whatever reason. Any time there is an injury, there is usually muscle, tissue, or fascia involved in the injury. Even if it something big like a broken bone, muscles and tissues are still involved. When tissue is damaged, it heals itself by producing something called scar tissue. Scar tissue is a thick and dense type of connective tissue that is designed to cover and protect the injured area while it heals. The only problem with scar tissue is that is doesn't stretch very well, and it can kind of replace the tissue that was originally in the place that was injured, and will stick around long after whatever the original injury was has healed. Since this tissue doesn't stretch and move as easily as the original muscle or tissue, it can make it more difficult to move as fully and with as much of a range as before the injury, therefore making it more easy to potentially re-injure the area if the tissue tears or separates, basically creating a case of re-injury.

Massage is very useful in the case of scar tissue. It manipulates the tissue, and while it can't really make it go away per se, it can loosen it up and make it more flexible, giving it more characteristics of the original tissue, and allowing it to move and act like before the injury. Massage takes the dense and thick tissue and basically stretches, loosens, and hydrates it so that it isn't tight and immobile. Scar tissue is one of the reasons that, after an injury, an area may feel tight or stiff, and might not have the same Range of Motion (ROM) that it previously did. Physical Therapy following an injury usually focuses on stretching, re-teaching the muscles how to work, and getting stronger to increase ROM and loosen up this tissue, and that absolutely can help. Massage continues this kind of help by not only doing all of that, but also working on a more deep level to manipulate that tissue to really break it up and "make it behave" more like it did before it was there.

While working with this tissue, massage also brings more blood flow to the area of injury, which results in more nutrients coming in, and more waste being taken away, therefore providing more ideal and easier conditions for the injury to heal. Additionally, if the scar tissue is softer and more mobile as the area heals, there is less likelihood that the area will be re-injured because there will be more "good stuff" in the area, and the scar tissue will be more flexible and less likely to pull and cause more damage if the area comes under the potential for injury again. Healthier tissue also responds better to strengthening, stretching, and overall good care intended to make the whole area healthier.

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