No matter what the reason, surgery is a daunting and nerve-racking ordeal. There is a great deal of associated stress that patients are faced with, including possible anesthesia, the procedure itself, pain management, potentially having to take time off from work and the limited ability to perform routine tasks during recovery and rehabilitation.

Included on list of items for the preparatory and recovery treatment plan should be the utilization of massage therapy. No matter what stage, from preparation to rehabilitation, in which you find yourself, the benefits are invaluable as even small procedures can leave lasting trauma to the tissues of the body — leading to unsightly areas or limited function, and limited activity may lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.

In the days or weeks leading up to surgery, the patient may experience anxiety and depression in anticipation which can cause excessive stress to the mind and body. Massage increases the secretion of endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine — helping to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. This elevates the mind and helps to relax the body; the manual manipulation of soft tissues help to prepare the tissue by decreasing tension and adhesions in fascia and muscles, therefore perceived or expected pain may decrease.

Along with tissue relaxation, massage increases movement of blood and lymph providing vital nutrients, oxygen, and white blood cells (essential in the healing process) to the damaged tissues. This allows for a faster recovery time as the tissue is already supple and vessels are open for increased circulation to aid in the healing process. Over all, massage helps to move the body into the parasympathetic nervous system — the part of the nervous system responsible for the relaxation response, and encourages REM sleep cycles during which time much of the body’s healing and restoration takes place.

When an area of the body is cut, localized damage and trauma is incurred at the treated area; there is often associated tenderness, swelling, and inflexibility at the site. Massage should not be applied directly to the affected areas until clearance is provided from attending physician. For major procedures, it is usually advised to wait 6-8 weeks to allow for preliminary tissue healing; the wait time for minor procedures may be less, however, medical clearance is still needed.

Though massage therapists would be unable to tend to the affected area, treating the rest of the body, specifically muscle groups that may be compensating or guarding in response to surgery would help to reduce pain, relieve physical and mental stress and encourage relaxation. Post-surgical massage still provides all of the aforementioned benefits that are just as important, if not more so, as the body heals. Further benefits include: possible decrease in swelling, soreness, stiffness and muscle spasms. As the patient moves further through recovery and rehabilitation, regular massage can help to keep tissues supple, decrease the appearance of scarring, increase range of motion and flexibility.