Ask anyone who gets massages regularly why they do it and many answers will be the same; “I have back pain”, or “It helps me handle my stress”, are the most common drivers for bodywork. But what about after a surgery? Could massage be beneficial to the healing process after an often drastic medical procedure?
We can deduce the obvious benefits quickly. Surgery is a drawn-out, convoluted, multi-tiered process, and it’s quite expensive. Did you feel your blood pressure rise while reading that? Stress is an immediate and lasting effect of surgery that often begins long before an operation is pinned on the calendar, and massage is a well-known way to effectively deal with heightened levels of anxiety. But let’s not forget, surgery isn’t comfortable physically either. The healing process is often uncomfortable and can take time, especially if the operation performed was deep and extensive. Luckily, massage is also a great way to deal with pain and discomfort, by flushing out swollen areas of the body with fresh blood and releasing endorphins in the body that improve mood, outlook, and help lower pain levels in areas throughout the body.
This is all well and good as a standalone observation, but what about evidence? Is there measurable proof that receiving bodywork after surgery will help clients recover faster than they would without massage therapy? If we look a little deeper into the physiological effects of this time-honored healing method we can see the answer is obviously, yes.
Recovery time is improved by five key effects of bodywork; stress management, blood flow, oxygenation of the blood, flexibility, and less money spent on painkillers. When the body is under stress, it releases cortisol, the “stress hormone”, which, among other things, causes constriction of the blood vessels, thereby reducing the amount of oxygen in the body. Essentially, it cuts off the supply train of nutrients throughout the body. By reducing, or even eliminating, the buildup of cortisol in the body through massage, we can increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and areas of the body that are recovering, which causes an increase in the amount of nutrients and antibodies available for healing injuries and preventing infections. On top of the vascular effects, massage helps loosen tendons and muscles, increasing strength and flexibility, and thereby reducing the level of muscular atrophy that can occur after a surgery. All these benefits in unison guide us to the more lucrative side of the discussion.
Less money spent on medication, with less time recovering, means more time living your life and doing the things that are most important to you.