Managing Stress with Massage Therapy
None of us are immune, at some point or another we will all find ourselves overwhelmed by what is being asked of us in our lives. Stress comes in many forms and will affect all of us differently. Our ability to cope with stress has been key to our survival as a species, but as our current lifestyle evolves, so does the way we perceive and deal with the stressors in it. These stressors have both mental and physical components. They might include raising children, caring for ailing parents, living with an illness or injury ourselves, working one or more jobs, volunteering, helping friends, maintaining our homes and all the stuff we accumulate. As the “to do” list grows and the amount of time or emotional ability to handle it does not, our stress level increases and we find ourselves living in a constant state of “fight or flight”. Over time, if we do nothing to counteract high levels of on-going stress, we enter a state of chronic stress. This can lead to negative, even life-threatening effects on our health including; soft tissue dysfunction, hypertension, depression and suppression of hormone glands.
Good news! There is a way to manage the physical affects of stress on our bodies. When we hold stress in our muscles, this is referred to as “tension holding”. Some common areas we hold tension are, in our neck, face, jaw and scalp which manifest commonly as headaches. Some other areas can be our shoulders, chest, abdominal and hip muscles. Holding stress in these places will change the way we stand, manifesting in postural changes which can negatively affect the spinal column, spinal cord and peripheral nerves of the arms, legs, and neck. Tension holding can also lead to painful muscle spasms and trigger points. In short, tension holding leads to dysfunction and more physical strain. Therapy through soft tissue massage has long been recognized as an effective way to reduce ‘tension holding’ and eliminate its negative effects. This is true not only during treatment but, thanks to muscle memory, for days or even weeks to come.
Therapeutic massage with a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) positively softens the contractile tissues of the body but it goes beyond that, helping to heal and restore the psychological, immunological and neurological systems. The benefit is to such a degree that massage therapy is now included in many workplace health insurance benefits and motor vehicle accident treatment plans.
Depending on the type of physical manifestations of stress, massage can be effective with more frequent treatments for a week or two, tapering as the individual reaches their treatment goals. As a preventive, maintenance or wellness measure, massage is recommended in appropriate cases once per month for one hour.