Can Massage Help High Blood Pressure?

{For several years, Bill hosted "Massage Moment", a radio spot nestled within Lionville Natural Pharmacy owner Ben Briggs' Saturday morning radio show, Health Focus on WCOJ. These 3-to-4-minute gems covered topics ranging from stress to common bio-mechanical injuries, to answering questions such as 'should I get massage before or after chiropractic?'

Listen to the audio here, aired originally in 2007.}

Okay... I had a client this week ask me if I thought massage would help with their high blood pressure. My answer: absolutely!

Think about it ... The components of your circulatory system, namely your veins and arteries, run through and around your skeletal muscles. In fact, it's your skeletal muscles that help return blood to the heart.

Inside each of your veins are little one-way valves that allow your blood to move in a forward direction towards the heart. When your muscles contract, they squeeze the veins, pushing the oxygen depleted blood back to the heart to get re-oxygenated. (Which is another reason to lead a more physically active lifestyle!)

But getting back to our subject, when muscles are contracted for prolonged periods of time, they "squeeze down" so to speak, on all the little veins and arteries, increasing the pressure within them. It would be like taking a garden hose and pinching off the end just a little. What happens? The water inside the house builds up pressure, enabling you to spray your spouse all the way on the other side of the drive-way! Anyway, you get the idea...!

The same thing happens to your blood vessels. When a person's body is under too much stress, their muscles remain in a state of contraction, which then constricts the blood vessels, which then raises the pressure within.

So, what does massage do? Well, one of the goals of massage therapy is to get skeletal muscle to relax and open up. This, in turn, relieves some of the pressure placed on the veins and arteries, thus lowering the pressure within them.

Now it's important to note that certain massage techniques are not suitable for clients with high blood pressure. For instance, stay away from deep tissue work. Deep tissue work requires a lot of pressure, and can actually raise blood pressure... so, obviously, you don't want to go there.

But a good medium pressure massage using Swedish techniques can do wonders to help bring high blood pressure under control.

As always, consult your physician, and see what they say. Most of them, more than you might think, are open to the idea of using massage therapy for managing high blood pressure. In fact, I've even had a few doctors refer their patients to me for that very reason!

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