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If you’ve ever injured a joint, you know that the recovery process is a whole-body affair. The muscles around the wound tighten, the opposing joint takes on extra duties and pain makes us tense up. Physical therapy sessions are essential but for those who want to accelerate their healing, adding massage to the mix can be a game-changer, according to Jennifer Penrose, owner of Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy. “Bringing in massage therapy gets people moving better, faster,” says Penrose. “There are definite medical benefits.”

physical therapy olympia Jennifer and Dan Penrose
After adding massage to his physical therapy regimen, Dan Penrose recovered more quickly from a fractured and dislocated hip. Photo courtesy: Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy

When patients come to Penrose & Associates with an injury, physical therapists teach them different exercises and stretches, work on scar tissue and focus on mobilizing the joints and tendons. Often, patients will be holding tension without realizing it as a protection against pain. Massage can help with all of the above, reducing pain, loosening tight muscles and breaking up scar tissue. It also creates greater tissue elasticity by increasing capillarization, meaning more capillaries are created around a muscle. Capillarization helps with relaxation and improved circulation, both of which contribute to healing.

Penrose’s husband Dan is a case in point. In spring 2020, he dislocated and fractured his hip. The injury required surgery and he had to be non-weight bearing on one side of his body for 12 weeks. “There were a lot of things to cover in a 40-minute physical therapy session,” says Penrose. “He really needed a whole hour of hands-on massage on the scar tissue on top of all the other mobility things that physical therapy was doing. Once he added massage, he saw so much more progress.”

physical therapy olympia Family Ski Vacation
Massage helps to loosen tight muscles around injury and reduce scar tissue, helping patients get back to activities they love (like skiing) sooner. Photo courtesy: Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy

Because there is so much tissue around the hip, it took several sessions of massage therapy to release his tightened muscles. Areas on the opposite side of his body had compensated for the injury and also needed attention. After two sessions, he noticed that his hip was no longer snapping when he stood up from a chair, and he felt that it was more open. Dan’s hip has improved sufficiently for him to participate in a family ski trip this winter, a feat that would have been unthinkable a year earlier.

Penrose has seen similar results with other clients. “Some of my neck arthritis have learned that if they get a monthly massage they do better for longer,” she notes. “They don’t have a flare-up. It’s the same for intense runners and athletes. When they get a monthly massage, they perform better and feel better.”

Aside from its physical benefits, massage also gives us permission to pause and turn inward. “It gets the system to calm down,” Penrose explains. “Most of us run at a pretty high-stress level and don’t take the time to let our parasympathetic nervous system kick in. You can lay there and breathe.”

Learn more by visiting the Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy website or calling 360.456.1444.

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