Makeup of the Muscles
To actually move the body, the framework of the skeleton works through contraction and relaxation of muscles. Your body is 50 percent muscle! Muscles make the body warm, keep the body stable, and see to it that your internal organs operate. There are more than 600 skeletal muscles in the body, all of which can benefit from massage, either directly or indirectly.
Types of Muscles
Muscle tissue is divided into three types: skeletal, cardiac, and smooth. Skeletal muscles are also known as voluntary muscles because they move at your command. Skeletal muscles form the shape of the body and move the skeletal bones they are attached to.
To walk, skip, run, or jump, you move your muscles at will. You can catch and throw something, type on a computer, turn pages of a book, drive a car, and dance all night because your skeletal muscles move voluntarily. Chewing food, smiling, talking, singing, or frowning are all voluntary movements performed by you.
The heart muscle is known as the cardiac muscle. Cardiac muscle tissue is found only in the heart and provides the movement necessary for the heart to beat. This muscle is an involuntary muscle, meaning you have no control over whether or not your heart will beat. Cardiac muscle must be fed a constant supply of oxygen to support it while the muscle contracts and relaxes at an average rate of 75 times a minute.
Smooth muscle is also an involuntary muscle, but this one is found inside organs, blood vessels, and at the point in the skin where hair follicles are attached. Smooth muscle tissue can stretch to a great length without loosing its elasticity. When the bladder or stomach is full, this muscle is able to stretch to accommodate the fullness. When the stomach or bladder is empty, the muscles return to their normal size, ready to be filled again.
The makeup of muscle fiber dictates whether or not it can regenerate. Some skeletal muscles have the ability to renew themselves, and smooth muscles can regenerate considerably, but cardiac muscles cannot. Exercise increases the flow of blood and oxygen, which contributes to the growth and renewal of skeletal muscles.
Functions of the Muscles
Muscles perform motion, maintain posture, and produce heat. They do this work through contractions that occur when an internal chemical process turns energy into movement. Some muscle motion is observable, such as running, dancing, talking, singing, and typing. Other motion you can't see but takes place when you digest your food, when your heart beats, or when you eliminate waste. Your muscles sustain your posture by keeping you sitting or standing without falling over. Lastly, the contraction of muscles produces and maintains body heat. Think about how warm you get when you exercise; this is a perfect example of muscles at work.
Massage and Skeletal Muscle Tissue
Skeletal muscle is the type of muscle primarily affected by massage. This muscle consists of connective tissue, blood, and lymph, as well as nerve tissue. Blood and lymph supply food to the muscles and take away the waste. Nerves send the impulses for movement and sensation. Connective tissue makes up the bulk of the muscle.
Massage works on the connective layers of muscle tissue, and makes the muscles feel good. Systematic and steady massaging of muscles releases toxins that may be causing fatigue. Massage also helps to improve muscle tone and prevent muscle spasms.