I hope the article “Is stress making you sick” helped you understand how much stress can affect your health. Now it’s time to look at how important massage is to help you stay healthy and combat the negative effects of stress.
Stress can be painful; it can cause fatigue, headaches, tense, sore muscles and leave you with little energy to enjoy life the way you want to. This is where massage is oh so much more than a luxury and becomes your #1 tool in fighting the negative effects of stress.
Getting a massage releases those feel good hormones called endorphins. These are the same hormones that are released when you work out; sometimes referred to as a runner’s high. Imagine that, the feel good benefits of a work out with no effort, I’ll take it!! (Note: massage should not and can not replace proper exercise!)
When these neurotransmitters are released into the blood stream, they help to reduce pain and create a euphoric feeling. Endorphins are the body’s natural stress reliever. The more regularly you receive massage, the better your body will be at releasing these hormones on its own.
Massage also helps to increase circulation. Increased circulation helps to flush out metabolic waste in the muscle tissue. When you are stressed and your muscles are tense for a period of time, even as little at 15 minutes, there is a build up of metabolic waste in the tissue.
Why is it important to flush out metabolic waste? Just like your car, a business or a factory the more the muscle has to work, the more waste it produces. If the factory is working over time and there aren’t enough janitors to remove the excess waste, the trash starts piling up and slowing the factory down.
It is the same scenario with your muscles. If your muscles are tense for a period of time (the factory working overtime) they produce large amounts of lactic acid and other types of metabolic waste. This build up of waste is what is causing your muscles to be tight and sore. This tension also slows down circulation to the muscle tissue (the janitor) Now you have excess waste, causing excess pain, and no way to remedy it on your own.
Massage helps to strategically work with the circulatory system to increase blood flow to the muscle tissue, bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients as well as removing the excess waste from the area leaving your muscles relaxed and pain free. Just like with endorphins, the more regularly you receive massage, the more capable your body is to maintain balance between circulation and metabolic waste.
If that wasn’t enough, increased circulation also helps your cells communicate more efficiently. This improved communication between cells can help to improve memory, increase insulin sensitivity helping with Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes and can help eliminate toxins from the body more efficiently.
We also said that poor posture can also be a source of stress. Massage can eliminate pain patterns within the body that develop as a result of poor posture. A common pattern often seen is tight hamstrings creating tension in the glutes and pulling the pelvis into a posterior rotation causing low back pain. You feel the low back pain, but the dysfunction is actually in your legs. Another common pattern massage therapists often see is tension in the bottom of the feet causing chronic headaches. Your massage therapist will be able to look at your posture, help you see the pain patterns that are specific to you and your body and determine where the problem is in order to resolve your pain and your stress!
Massage is also a great time to just be still. Your therapist requires nothing from you except that you stay in communication with them; letting them know if the pressure they are applying is
too much or not enough. It is your time to rest and relax with no interruptions, no demands and no expectations.
Massage is NOT just about someone putting lotion on you for an hour. It is, or should be an integral part of your preventative and long term health plan. Remember almost all of the leading causes of death are caused by stress. Knowing what you now know, shouldn’t stress relief be a priority?
Look for the last article in this series where we’ll look at things you can do on your own to relieve stress and improve your overall health.