“It is well documented that massage, particularly deep tissue massage, can be used to increase local circulation and to decrease muscle spasm and stiffness.” –Barnabas Lazaras, Massage Therapist
According to Owen Walker, a sport massage therapist, “Massage may improve skin and muscle temperature, localized blood flow, and the release of serotonin…. Massage may reduce anxiety and increase the state of relaxation, potentially due to its influence on parasympathetic activity.” Massage is the manipulation of body tissues and is common practice for injury rehabilitation, holistic well being, and exercise preparation. Massage allows for increased blood flow and warming of the muscles prior to stretching. Additionally, massage reduces muscle spasms while increasing both range of motion and flexibility. With that said, being that side effects of brain injury include symptoms such as clenched fist, decreased mobility, and spasticity, massage may yield beneficial to the brain injury patient. Walker further mentions, “Static flexibility is often defined as “the range of motion available to a joint or series of joints.” Multiple studies have shown that classical massage is capable of increasing joint range of motion.” When range of motion and flexibility is comprised by brain injury, it is often suggested that passive range of motion should be applied to the patient to prevent freezing of the joints, reduce muscles stiffness, and reduce anxiety, all of which are common side effects of TBI.
Improve Range of Motion
Massage Envy says, “In addition, regular massage therapy can help improve your range of motion. Tight joints restrict flexibility, but massage encourages blood flow to underlying tissues that need the nutrients delivered by fresh, oxygen-rich blood.” When joints remain stationary they will eventually freeze, tendons will shorten, and tendons will shorten, and further complications will arise. For brain injury patients in particular, if extremities such as hands, feet, ankles, and wrists are not mobilized then contractures are likely to develop, most commonly clenched fist or foot deformity. Newton’s first law of motion states, “A body at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.” This means that an immobilized patient will remain in such state unless they are assisted by an outside force. Furthermore, it is common for brain injury patients to have to learn how to move again, know where their body is in space, wake up atrophied muscles, and improve both mobility and flexibility. With that said, massage might be able to encourage these activities.
Improving Mobility And Flexibility
In regards of improving flexibility, Carolyn Kisner, physical therapist, said, “By reducing muscle tension, pain can be decreased, and flexibility of muscle increased… General progressive may also be useful adjunct to a stretching program… Place the patient in a quiet area in comfortable position… Have the patient breathe in a slow deep manner.” Massage traditionally takes place in relaxing environment with pleasant smells, sounds, and an ambiance of healing. Additionally, the masseuse cues the patient on deep breathing techniques throughout the massage to relax the muscles, promote muscle elongation, and improve flexibility. A common side effect of TBI is spasticity, cramping and stiffening of the muscles, and deep tissue massage modalities loosen up the tightened layers skin. When the fascia is loosened, the muscle fibers are alleviated for a deeper stretching and stripping of the spasticity. Barnabas Lazarus massage therapist, said, “Generally, massages for stroke, or other brain injury survivors, patients focus on relaxation along with slow and easy breathing methods. Begin with the muscle groups that are experiencing less spasticity.” When the patient takes slow, deep, and steady breaths it activates the parasympathetic system that will relax the body and prepare it for stretching. Additionally, the parasympthetic system will relax the nervous system, and the spasticity, therby decreasing muscle stiffness and increasing flexibility. Lazarus continues to say, “Appropriate techniques include a slow, deep, continuous rhythmic kneading that can be combined with smooth stretching if it’s suitable.” You can imagine tissue as an elastic substance and the more you warm it up, strip out the fibers, and soften the tissues, the more elongation can theoretically be achieved.
According to Brainline.org, ” Research found that more than 60 percent of people with a brain injury had psychiatric disorders up to 5.5 years post-injury. Many of these were new cases of depression and anxiety and were not present prior to injury.” Anxiety is a common sideeffect of traumatic brain injury and massage promote elevation of the mood. Being in a healing environment, as someone is working on improving your physical well-being is very therapeutic and instills a deep sense of relaxation. Additionally, as the massage therapits works on the patient, it is common practice for the reciever to vent and release everthing that is bothering them. Brainline.org says, in regards of coping with anxiety, “Share things that worry you with others.” Sharing things that worry you with the masseuse is common practice, making massage a very efficient application to remedy anxiety after traumatic brain injury.