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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.

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