There are many reasons people might seek out massage therapy, but stress relief can be the most important. In general, stress is anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being. Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. WebMD warns that constant stress actually becomes "distress -- a negative stress reaction.
Massage therapy improves health and wellbeing by positively affecting your muscular, nervous and circulatory systems. Stress relief should be one of the first benefits that come to mind when thinking of massage therapy.
Stress is harmful
Many medical studies have shown stress to be harmful:
A 2013 study by neuroscientists found that even mild levels of stress can impair our ability to control our emotions.
“Our results suggest that even mild stress, such as that encountered in daily life, may impair the ability to use cognitive techniques known to control fear and anxiety,” lead author Candace Raio, Ph.D., said in a press release.
Some studies showed that high levels of stress in pregnant women also may trigger changes in their children as they grow, specifically behavioral and developmental issues.
Some people respond to stressful situations through nervous tics or by grinding their teeth. While people often grind their teeth unconsciously or when they sleep, it can do lasting damage to your jaw and cause painful muscular imbalances of the head, neck and shoulder muscles.
Stress can damage your heart because stress hormones increase your heart rate and constrict your blood vessels. This forces your heart to work harder, and increases your blood pressure.
Researchers at the University of Miami found that when people find themselves in stressful situations, they are likely to consume 40 percent more food than normal.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered that stress shortens telomeres — structures on the end of chromosomes — so that new cells can’t grow as quickly. This leads to the inevitable signs of aging: wrinkles, weak muscles, poor eyesight, and more.
Chronic stress puts high demands on the release of stress hormones that in turn weaken the immune system, which makes you more vulnerable to colds and infections.
Massage Therapy Works
Massage Therapy involves a range of hands-on techniques to manipulate the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, skin, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, membranes and joints. Massage Therapy improves health and wellbeing by positively affecting your muscular, nervous and circulatory systems.
Many studies have demonstrated that massage therapy is an effective method for relieving stress, as evidenced by reductions in cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. Even weekly 15-minute chair massages for nurses during work hours significantly reduced stress-related symptoms. Clinical studies have shown that even a single 1 1⁄2-hour session can significantly lower your heart rate, cortisol levels and insulin levels -- all of which explain why massage therapy and stress relief go hand-in-hand.
There is a great need for effective stress relief methods. Some massage techniques are better at achieving this goal than others. It is always wise to have a thorough consultation at the beginning of each massage treatment to determine your short term and long term goals.
By adding therapeutic massage to your routine now, you'll feel, look and simply be healthier far into the future.
Linda Davidson RMT, Registered Massage Therapist graduated as a registered massage therapist in Ontario in 2003 and has worked at Bayview Natural Health Clinic for over 10 years.
Back pain is the most common complaint in people. In today’s society, we use computers and sit at a desk for the majority of our days. People spend a lot of time slouched over their desks, which causes muscle fatigue and postural stress. Over time, the stress that poor posture puts on the spine can lead to anatomical changes, causing constriction of blood vessels and nerves, as well as joints and disc problems. These may provoke headaches, muscle soreness, decrease range of motion in the joints and general discomfort.
Having proper posture can help eliminate some of these problems. Posture is defined by the way you hold your body upright, standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture is positioning your body where the least amount of strain is placed on ligaments, joints and muscles during movement and weight bearing activities.
Proper posture can improve:
Breathing and circulation
Joints and ligaments while prevent wearing of joint surfaces, which can lead to arthritis
Neck and back pain by causing less strain on the muscles
Muscle tissues by increasing blood flow Proper alignment of the spine and prevent degenerative disc disease.
Your appearance – by standing straight and tall, you will look healthier and more confident!
Here’s how to check your posture:
The Mirror Test - Look in the mirror and evaluate where your shoulders are positioned. Your shoulders should be at your sides. If you find that your shoulders are turned inwards, towards the front, pull them back by squeezing your shoulder blades closer together.
The Wall Test –
Stand with your head, shoulder blades, and buttock touching the wall and have your heels 4-6 inches from the wall. Slide your palm in the small curvature in the lower back. Ideally, you want to feel one hand’s thickness in that space. If you have more than one hand’s space, tighten your core and flatten your back until your low back contacts your hand. If you don’t have enough space, arch your back just enough to make room for your hand. Remember this position as you leave the wall. This is the correct standing posture.
Stand with your back against the wall. Check the space between your neck and the wall. The distance should ideally be less than 2 inches. If you have more than 2 inches, that means that you have more curvature in your upper spine, which can lead to tight neck muscles, neck and shoulder pain, and headaches.
By maintaining good posture, you can prevent fatigue. The muscles you are using will be able to function more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
Here are a few ways to start training your body to develop proper posture:
1. Sit and Stand Tall
Be cautious of how you sit and stand. Tighten your core, sit or stand straight, look straight ahead of you, keeping your head balanced on your spine, not in front of your body. Roll your shoulders back and relax them. Bend your knees slightly to relieve pressure off your hips. Don’t lock your knees. By sitting or standing tall, you will prevent stress on your muscles and joints and you will look more confident!
2. Sit with Support
If you spend most of your day sitting, it is imperative you sit with a back support. Your arms should be flexed at a 75-90 degrees level, rested either on an armrest, or on the desk. Keep your back flushed against the chair, with your head balanced on your spine, looking straight. Your knees slightly lower than your hips and a few inches pass the chair. Your feet should be placed flat on the ground. If your feet does not reach the ground, use a footrest.
3. Strengthen and Stretch
Weak core muscles contribute to slouching and poor posture. When you engage in your core, you automatically sit or stand a little straighter. Strengthening your core also protects your back from injuries. Start by holding a plank for 30 seconds a day, every day. Or try to engage in your core every time you stand or walk.
Stretch your muscles in your chest. If your shoulders are turned inwards, your pectoralis muscle is most likely tight, pulling your shoulders in. Stretching this muscle will open up the chest area, and help increase air circulation by providing more space for your lungs to expand.
To stretch this muscle, stand next to a wall, place your hand and forearm against the wall with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle, parallel to the shoulder. Stagger your feet with the leg closest to the wall in front of the other leg for balance. Bend slightly at the hips and rotate your torso away from the wall. You should feel a slight pull in your chest muscle. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Training your body to develop proper posture takes time. First, acknowledge what you need to change, then take small steps to achieving those goals.