Massage to Reduce Stress
by Laura G., LMP
We all know what causes stress and we all know that stress is bad for you. What is less well-known is exactly how stress affects your body and how massage reverses the physiological effects of stress.
Our bodies have a complex reaction to stress. A “fight or flight” reaction of the sympathetic nervous system gears the body for heavy physical exertion. Blood pressure increases and cholesterol is released into the bloodstream. Breathing becomes rapid and shallow and heart rate increases. Muscles tense and blood rushes to the extremities to prepare them for action.
In our modern lifestyle, however, the stress response is also triggered by daily activities like sitting at the computer for long hours or simply waiting in traffic. These sedentary activities don’t release stress. Stress remains in our bodies causing muscle tightness, high blood pressure, and a sense of fatigue. Over the long-term muscles and blood vessels become less elastic, arteries develop cholesterol plaques, digestion becomes sluggish, and sleep doesn’t feel refreshing. We find it difficult to ever fully relax even after exercise.
Calming strokes send a message to the nervous system that the body is safe. Blood pressure and heart rate return to normal. Breathing slows and deepens and digestion increases. Deep muscle strokes relax constricted muscle fibers and open blood vessels. As a full body treatment returns muscles to a healthy tonus, the chest and abdomen soften and relax and the shoulders lower. The internal organs have more room to operate and receive better blood supply. As the energy held in tense muscles is released, one feels more energetic and exercise is more enjoyable. The deep relaxation achieved with a full body massage allows one to rest comfortably and sleep becomes more rejuvenating.
Massage acts as a natural bio-feedback mechanism. With regular massage, our bodies learn how to return to the “rest and digest” state with more ease. We are less likely to get stuck in the “flight or flight” stress reaction. Hence, we actually learn to deal better with stress on a physiological level. Regular massage to reduce stress is an excellent method for combating the effects of stress and enhancing one’s health. Reducing one’s stress response feels good at the time and feels even better the next day. Not only does massage feel fantastic, it is also fantastic for your health!
This article has been brought to you by Dreamclinic – offering quality therapeutic massage and acupuncture in the greater Seattle area as well as corporate massage nationwide. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and experience the Dreamclinic difference.