Massage Therapy's Role in Preparing Connective Tissue for Surgery and Post-Surgical Rehabilitation
No matter what the reason surgery is a daunting, nerve-racking ordeal.
There is associated stress with possible anesthesia, the procedure itself, pain
management, potentially taking time off from work, limited ability during
recovery and rehabilitation. Included on list of items for the preparatory and
recovery treatment plan should be massage. No matter what stage from
preparation to rehabilitation you find yourself, the benefits are invaluable as even
small procedures can leave lasting trauma to the tissues of the body leading to
unsightly areas or limited function, and limited activity may lead to feelings of
anxiety or depression.
In the days or weeks leading up to surgery, the patient may experience
anxiety and depression in anticipation causing stress to the mind and body.
Massage increases the secretion of endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine,
decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. This elevates the mind and helps
to relax the body; the manual manipulation of soft tissues help to prepare the tissue
by decreasing tension and adhesions in fascia and muscles, so perceived or
expected pain may decrease. Along with tissue relaxation, massage increases
movement of blood and lymph providing vital nutrients, oxygen, and white blood
cells (essential in the healing process) to the damaged tissues. This allows for a
faster recovery time as the tissue is already supple and vessels are open for
increased circulation to aid the healing process. Over all massage helps to move
the body into the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system
responsible for the relaxation response, and encourages REM sleep cycles during
which much of the body’s healing and restoration takes place.
When an area of the body is cut, localized damage and trauma is incurred at
the treated area; there is often associated tenderness, swelling, and inflexibility at
the site. Massage should not be applied directly to the affected areas until
clearance is provided from attending physician. For major procedures it is usually
advised to wait 6-8 weeks to allow for preliminary tissue healing; the wait time for
minor procedures may be less, however medical clearance is still needed. Though
massage therapists would be unable to tend to the affected area, treating the rest of
the body, specifically muscle groups that may be compensating or guarding in
response to surgery would help to reduce pain, relieve physical and mental stress
and encourage relaxation. Following surgery massage still provides all of the
aforementioned benefits that are just as important, if not more so, as the body
heals. Further benefits include: possible decrease in swelling, soreness, stiffness
and muscle spasms.
As the patient move further through recovery and
rehabilitation regular massage can help to keep tissues supple, decrease the
appearance of scarring, increase range of motion and flexibility.