Of course we all know that massages make us feel good – they relax our bodies and our brains – but have you ever noticed that a massage can also cause somewhat of a tingling feeling?
Most commonly this tingling occurs in the hands or feet of the recipient either during or after the massage – and not only if that’s the area being massaged. But how is it, then, that a neck, back, or any type of massage really, can cause such sensations in totally different areas of the body? It may seem worrisome, but it’s actually a great sign that your massage is having a positive affect on your body.
Below, we’ve outlined the science behind why massages make you tingle, and why this tingling means that it’s working.
Your Muscular and Nervous Systems are Connected
With your muscles making up a whopping 40% of your body weight (on average), and your body being home to billions of neurons responsible for your sensory functions, it should not be a surprise that your muscles are actually the largest sensory “organ” that you have.
Whether your muscles are working consciously or automatically, any action you make ultimately was the result of stimulated nerve endings.
How This Works
Your mind thinks of the action, this thought is transferred to your central nervous system (which is composed of the brain and spinal cord) before entering into the peripheral nervous system (which is any nerve outside of the CNS). When the nerves responsible for controlling the required muscle(s) are alerted, a chemical called acetylcholine is released from these nerve endings ultimately causing the muscle to contract and perform the action you had originally thought of.
This sounds like a long process, when in reality each of these steps all takes place within a millisecond – literally, 1/1000th of a second.
Knowing now that, really, our nerve endings are responsible for how we use our muscles, is it really so crazy to understand how this can work the opposite way as well – with our nerve endings being affected based on how our muscles are touched and manipulated?
Not only the muscles, but also the tendons, ligaments, and fascia surrounding our muscles are unbelievably full of nerve endings – nerve endings that produce a lot of sensation. This means that it is very easy for physical manipulation to our muscles, such as when we get a massage, to create an array of sensations throughout our bodies.
Better Blood Flow
Not only can this tingling be accredited to the physical manipulation and stimulation of the nerve endings within your muscles, but it may also be caused by the increase in blood flow caused by your massage.
A massage encourages better circulation due to the pressure of the massage causing blood to move through otherwise congested areas. As this pressure is released, new blood begins to flow through the area. This new blood also brings to the area additional oxygen, which can help to heal damaged or tense muscles. As muscles become stronger and healthier, the nerve endings in those muscles will become more susceptive to various sensations.
This is true especially if you suffer from poor circulation to begin with. In this case, this new blood flow can easily cause unique sensations, such as tingling, numbness, or even itching as your previously under-stimulated nerve endings are once again put into use.
What Types of Massages Most Commonly Cause This Tingling
Certain types of massages, of course, are more likely to cause the tingling sensation than others. Factors such as amount of pressure being applied, length of massage, the targeted area being massaged, and the massage method all come with their own benefits and side effects.
Generally, any type of massage that has higher amounts of pressure being applied to your muscles (and in turn your nerve endings) or that works specifically to increase blood flow throughout your body (especially your extremities) will result in at least a slight tingling or “fuzzy” feeling either at the targeted spot or in your hands and feet.
One specific massage technique that people commonly claim causes them to experience this sensation is Neuromuscular Therapy (often referred to simply as trigger point therapy).
This type of massage therapy typically consists of the therapist applying direct and prolonged pressure on certain “trigger points” to redistribute localized stress – aka those pesky knots that seem to pop up when we least need or want them.
This method may also be used to address issues affecting other parts of your body but stemming from nerves in a certain area (for example sciatic pain in the legs is addressed through pressure points in the lower back area – this is also known as referred pain).
Depending on the tightness and severity of the muscle and the knot, this type of massage may first result in pain, and the tingling will typically arise as the nerve endings being stimulated begin to respond to the intensity of the pressure being applied to the area.
Just One Of The Many Benefits
Tingling may not be a benefit in itself (except to those who seem to enjoy the odd sensation) but it is definitely a good sign if your massage causes such, as the tingling is result of benefits such as increased circulation and healthier muscles.
If you need any more reason to book yourself a massage, don’t forget that massages are good for more than just the tingle – in fact they are natural remedies for many chronic illnesses, injuries, and even just the aches and pains you feel from living your life. And hey, if you don’t have any physical health concerns they are also a great stress reliever after a long week at work or a just great way to treat yourself for no reason at all (we aren’t judging).