Safe Harbour Therapy Podcast – Episode 6: How Massage Relieves Stress with Alexa Dutchak
written by Alexa Dutchak (Registered Massage Therapist & Kinesiologist ) on 08/10/19
Understanding massage from a physical, scientific and emotional perspective
“Ahhh, I feel so relaxed”, “okay… focus on your breathing, let’s get through this nasty trigger point!” Do these phrases sound familiar?
Everyone’s needs are different when it comes to experiencing a massage. Some people want to purely feel relaxed the entire session…taking deep breaths. Others want help working on specific trigger points, injuries or help improving range of motion around a joint.
What is truly better than the feeling that the person who is helping you, really cares about meeting your needs? When you come in to see an RMT you will feel heard. We pay attention to the areas you are concerned about, while at the same time use our assessment tools to see what the body is telling us. Your body is a puzzle that we are putting together piece by piece. Massage therapists are here for you to help your body heal itself more efficiently. Your body is your number one helper, if there is a problem, it sends all that it can to that area to help. This is your immune response, stress response and inflammatory response. But, sometimes these capabilities are compromised with prolonged, chronic pain, disease or stress, and the bodies’ natural ability to heal becomes compromised. Massage therapy helps to reverse the stress response, increase circulation of your lymphatic fluid to help your immune system, and manage inflammation.
So what exactly are massage therapists doing that enables your body to heal itself more efficiently? When we find muscles that are tight, congested, hypertonic, littered with adhesions and/or trigger points, we use techniques to pump fresh blood, decrease congestion, generate heat to break down areas of calcification, and break apart adhesions. We can use stretching and strengthening techniques to help give your particular joint a larger and more efficient range of motion. The goal is to help your muscles relax, and contract only when called upon by the brain for certain tasks.
While all these mechanical processes are going on, your brain is also working away during your massage. These mechanical processes are sending messages to your neurotransmitters in you brain. This is where the benefit of decreasing stress, anxiety, depression and overall improving your mood comes into play. Serotonin is found in your brain, but also in your gut. Massage will help increase your levels of serotonin hormone to improve your mood, regulate your sleep, body temperature, blood pressure and improve efficiency of digestion. At the same time, that massage helps reduce your levels of cortisol, a hormone released during the stress response. Stress is inevitable, and some stress is good for us, but it is chronic (long term), stress and chronic release of cortisol that becomes the problem. This is where we start to become chronically fatigued, or potentially sick. Our body is trying to conserve all that it has to help you, and it’s looking for a rest…and regular massage can be that rest to give your body a renewed ability to relax and fight for you.
If you already go for regular massage, what do you love about it? If you haven’t been for a massage yet, what questions do you have? What are you looking for in a massage therapist? The way massage works for our body is complex, but in the end, we as RMT’s are here to help your body and mind heal.