Our body’s nervous system is involved in everything we do, playing an important part in maintaining our overall health and wellbeing. An injury affecting one of the nerves in the body, called a nerve lesion, can seriously diminish our quality of life, resulting in a wide array of symptoms including loss of muscle control, numbing or tingling, and sharp pains. Damage to the nerve interrupts the transmission of neural signals and vital nutrient proteins passing through it, while complete nerve lesions may become permanent, completely blocking these sensory and motor signals is essential for optimal function.
As an area repairs after an injury, soft tissues can become tight which can compress a nerve. Whether or not this nerve was also damaged, these tensions in soft tissues can impair a nerve signal. Since much nerve compression and tension is caused by soft tissue restriction, massage therapy can significantly alleviate these problems, relieving underlying symptoms and helping to restore normal functioning to the affected area. Therapeutic techniques will increase blood circulation to the injured area. Nerves entrapped by fascial tissue or tight muscles can be loosened by myofascial techniques, trigger point work and active or passive soft tissue stretches. After an area suffering an acute injury has begun to heal, massage techniques can break up the scar tissue to make the nerves more responsive.
Massage therapy students acquire an in-depth understanding of nervous system structure and function so they can accurately identify the impacted nerve and provide effective treatment.
A variety of traumatic conditions may result in nerve lesions, such as degenerative diseases, abrasive injuries, laceration, compression, tumours or burns. Symptoms vary according to where the lesion is located but commonly involve muscle weakness, paresthesia (the sensation of pins and needles), and pain. The most common type of nerve injuries involve compression from prolonged pressure or repetitive strain, including long hours at a desk or driving, improperly fitted crutches, or cycling long distances.
Registered massage therapists frequently encounter clients experiencing compression to the radial, ulnar, median, or sciatic nerves. Injury to the radial, ulnar, or median nerves may cause weakness or loss of mobility in various parts of the hand, wrist, or forearm.
Sciatic nerve pain in the lower back is most commonly caused by a lumbar herniated disc or muscle tension along the hip into the upper leg, which can result in repetitive intense pain running the entire length of the legs. Graduates of massage therapy college loosen the lower back muscles and Piriformis as well as surrounding tissue to help limit pinching or irritation while encouraging the release of endorphins that bring temporary pain relief.
The patient’s symptoms can generally indicate to doctors the location of the nerve lesion and neurologists will recommend a course of treatment following a neurological exam. In their massage therapy program, students learn to apply a combination of techniques, including deep tissue massage, myofascial release and trigger point therapy to loosen the nerve and release the trigger point pressure.
Sports massage techniques like circular frictions, kneading, and muscle stripping use just one thumb to break down knots and scar tissue. Stretching techniques can also help release the impingement, but the shortening and lengthening of an enflamed nerve can sometimes be painful. Muscle energy techniques use the client’s gentle muscle contractions to actually lengthen the muscle surrounding the affected nerve, improving joint motion, strength, and balance.
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