We all know that massage therapy works, but the science behind it has been the subject of much study. And many people find themselves in the dark as to the whys and hows behind massage. How does massage therapy relieve pain? How does it work for our body?
Have you ever noticed how rubbing your knee after you bang it on something makes it feel better? Our own Rachel Beider explains: “When you bang your knee as a child, and your mom kisses it, it seems to feel better. That's because it really does - the sensation of pressure helps to block pain sensations from going to your brain.”
This idea of “blocking pain” with another touch sensation is commonly known as the Gate Control Theory. Our bodies can experience a whole range of specific sensations that help block pain - touch, temperature change, tickle and even itch. To take Rachel's example into more depth, imagine the spinal cord as a 'nerve highway' to the brain. Nerve receptors are the 'cars' that take sensation up to merge onto the spinal cord. But a second sensation, such as rubbing or shaking your stubbed finger, can cut off the nerve receptor while it's traveling-- just like that taxi cutting you off on the FDR. This is why we instinctively shake, rub, or squeeze whatever body part hurts. It's also why getting massage sessions—filled to the brim with different types of touch therapy—can make pain from an acute injury subside. There! Now you know precisely how massage therapy works in relieving pain!