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By: Tanya Lafontaine RMT

Often there is a misconception about massage that is can only be beneficial for relieving stress. In actuality, massage, whether it be relaxation or therapeutic in nature, can have some very noticeable and positive effects on our body as a whole, not just our muscular system. An example would be how massage affects our Blood Pressure.

Massage can be regarded as a lighter form of exercise. By applying some pressure to the muscles in a rhythmic fashion, circulation around the muscles is moved and begins to speed up. This increases our body’s overall circulation. By speeding up our venous return (the blood going back to our heart), we decrease the travel time of blood in our veins, decreasing the viscosity or thickness of our blood.

As the massage goes on, provided some relaxation techniques are applied, our sympathetic nervous system (involved in our fight or flight response) begins to relax. And because our sympathetic nervous system is slowing down, it leads to a nice decrease in heart rate – meaning that although your circulation has sped up, your heart isn’t working nearly as hard to keep your body full of fresh, oxygenated blood. (this is a very good thing!!)

It is because of this decrease in heart rate at the end of the treatment, that clients who already have low blood pressure, sometimes feel a little woozy once their massage is finished.

Due to the fact that massage initially speeds up our blood pressure, it is imperative that you let your massage therapist know (before the beginning of treatment!!) about any cardiovascular concerns you are having or have had in the past. Some examples of concerns could be issues with high blood pressure or previous heart attack.

Registered massage therapists are educated in school about various heart conditions and are trained on how to modify their treatments specifically for clients with cardio concerns. Some of these changes to treatment could include the client’s position, the decision to not use heat and sometimes even the amount of pressure, as pain can increase your heart rate.

To recap, massage can have a large effect on your blood pressure and overall circulatory system by speeding up blood returning to your heart, decreasing your blood’s viscosity and after an initial speeding up our hearts, finishes off with a gradual decreased heart rate. If you have any heart disease or cardiovascular issues and want a massage, please don’t feel discouraged! Just let your therapist know in advance and they will happily make some minor modifications to your treatment to ensure you still get the full benefits of massage in a manner that is safe for you!