How can massage help with Stress?
Academic studies have shown that stress can be reduced significantly on physical and psychological levels through massage. Whether this is because it helps to decrease cortisol and increase the flow of the ‘happy’ hormones serotonin and dopamine, it is not totally clear. One thing we do know is that humans are biologically wired to respond to touch. I strongly believe that the right type of touch, within a space where the client is able to feel safe and be supported, is hugely powerful in terms of stress relief. If clients are able to blend mindfulness techniques, guided relaxation and restorative yoga into the mix then it is even more powerful.
Chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, Rheumatoid arthritis and IBS all benefit from massage where the focus is on calming the sympathetic nervous system, and people who are suffering from musculoskeletal pain where central sensitisation may be a strong component of the pain also benefit from this type of massage. Where the aim is to calm the sympathetic nervous system and promote relief from the effects of stress, massage should not involve deep tissue work or trigger point work, both of which are often too much for a body that is already stressed to handle. The focus of the work should instead involve a combination of myofascial release, the use of hot stones and acupressure work, blended together with long, slow effleurage. I have found that many clients respond well to the use of warm oil, and find foot, facial and head massage deeply relaxing.
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