Head to Toe Health Centre
71 Oxford Street
Toronto, ON M5T 1P2

416 203 6500


Who looks outward dreams; who looks inward, wakes.


March 27, 2012 by Dr Karen Hack

Much More than Pampering

Most of us have experienced the pleasure of massage therapy at some time in our lives and so understand just how relaxing and rejuvenating a massage can feel. However, as we start to examine the physiological and psychological impact of massage therapy on our bodies, we begin to understand its profound therapeutic effect.

Tissue Relaxation

As we grow older our muscles which allow us to move, and our connective tissue which holds us together, often become stiffer, shorter, or thicker, therefore distorting our posture and limiting our movements. Not only do these stiffenings, shortenings, and thickenings occur as a result of injury or surgery, they also may result from overuse, disuse, spasm, illness, fatigue, poor habits, or the innumerable physical strains that various occupations demand of us. Bodywork has been used for thousands of years to relax muscles, eliminate spasms, diminish fatigue, and soften connective tissue to restore a full range of painless movement.

Increased Circulation

Most of our bodies’ processes rely upon the appropriate movement of fluids through our systems. Nutrients, oxygen, hormones, antibodies, other immune cells, and of course water, must be delivered to every single cell continually if it is to survive and respond the way it should. Furthermore, all kinds of toxic waste products must be removed via the movement of these fluids. There is no tissue in the body that cannot be weakened and ultimately destroyed by chronic interruptions of these various circulations.

Massage therapy can be an effective means of promoting these circulations. Whether it is blood in the arteries, capillaries, and veins, the contents of the digestive tract, lymph in its vessels, secretions in their gland, or the fluids that fill the spaces between our cells, massage moves these fluids, allowing them to reach distant sites and helping to remove the toxic waste products which would otherwise build up.

Sensorimotor Re-education

Massage therapy acts as a kind of sensorimotor re-education, rather than a treatment or a procedure in the common sense. If we consider the fact that our skin is the largest and most active sense organ in our bodies, we can begin to understand the extent of the impact provoked by massage therapy. Our skin floods our minds with sensory information. Our skin is even active during our deepest sleep, ready to start us into wakefulness at the first abnormal sensation.
As we develop and mature, most of us build up and reinforce a reliably consistent repertoire of movement habits, which in turn generate a specific range of resulting sensations. This careful process of selection is largely unconscious, and so as long as we are comfortable, we are rarely aware of any limitations or potential discomfort our habits may entail.

Through a variety of techniques, massage therapy generates a flow of sensory information to the mind, information that is not being generated by our own limited repertoire of movements. The mind is presented with new information to fill in the gaps and missing links in the appraisal of the body’s tissues and physiological processes. It is then the mind of the patient that does the ‘fixing’ – making the appropriate adjustments in posture, the more efficient and judicious distribution of fluids, nutrients, and gases, the fuller and more flexible relationship between neural and muscular responses.

Recovery from Variety of Illnesses

Through tissue relaxation, increased circulation, and sensorimotor re-education, massage is helpful in the treatment and recovery from a profuse number of illnesses. These illnesses include; anxiety, depression, insomnia, diabetes, high blood pressure, headaches, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, arthritis, cancer, as well as many others. While massage benefits those who are suffering from illness or stress, regular massage treatments from a Registered Massage Therapist will help you to maintain overall health, prevent the onset of illness, and improve your quality of life. Though you may think of massage as a means of being pampered, it doesn’t make a massage session any less therapeutic.

Discover the therapeutic benefits of massage therapy for yourself!

-Karen Hack, BHSc, ND


  1. Job’s Body; Juhan, Station Hill Press, 1987.
  2. Textbook of Natural Medicine; Pizzorno, Murray; Churchill Livingstone, 1999.