How Massage Therapy affects the Nervous System
Massage therapy stimulates the Autonomic Nervous System, which controls all the body functions we do not consciously control, like breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc. The Autonomic Nervous System is broken down in to 2 different branches; The Sympathetic and The Parasympathetic Nervous Systems.
When the Sympathetic Nervous System is triggered “stressed”, an immediate large, widespread dose of epinepherine is released by the adrenal glands which sit on top of your kidneys, causing the body to go into “Fight or Flight Mode.” This reaction causes the heart rate to increase, breathing increase, pupils to dilate, increased blood flow to the muscles and a decrease in digestion as the body prepares for imminent danger.
Now when the Parasympathetic Nervous System is activated, it produces the opposite effect of the Sympathetic Nervous System. Infact the hypothalamus located in the brain releases endorphins or “feel good chemical messengers” that calm the body. Decreasing the blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. Promoting rejuvenating relaxation, bringing the body and mind back to harmony and peaceful living.
Importantly, massage touches more than just your muscles. On top of everything is your largest organ, skin, and the spidery web connective tissue that covers us from head to toe, the fascial layers. While it’s often the musculoskeletal system that gets the most credit, there is much more going on that is affected by massage touch. In all there are eleven central “systems” in the body: Cardiovascular/Circulatory which are comprised of arteries and veins, Digestive which is what we taken in and eliminate, Endocrine handles the hormonal balance, Integumentary aka the skin, Lymphatic which moves the white blood cells in the immune system, Musculoskeletal which is the framework of the body responsible for movement, Nervous which is the brain to body connection, Renal which produces/stores and eliminates urine and other metabolic waste from the body, Reproductive the sex organs, Respiratory which is the movement of air, exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs and finally, the Vestibular which is the balance system located in the inner ear and is responsible for balance and movement. When receiving a full body massage, the touch will impact these each of these systems in a positive way.