by Charlotte Musgrave, Peninsula Naturopathic Clinic –
The therapeutic effects of massage therapy are understood now more than ever before, and each year more individuals incorporate massage into their regular self care routines. Whether your body is debilitated by constant arthritic aches, a headache that appears when stress levels increase, a muscle injured at the gym or a body that just wants a monthly maintenance “tune up,” massage therapy is beneficial for all body types.
Chronic Pain. Dealing with chronic pain is challenging enough, without the additional exhaustion of driving from one appointment to the next and trying multiple types of therapy, only to end up feeling overwhelmed by not knowing which therapeutic approach is most effective. Consider the rule of three: no single treatment is going to cure a chronic issue, but a single repeated modality over time can certainly have an effect.
The musculoskeletal system, like all other systems in the body, strives to function optimally; muscles, ligaments and joints (known as soft tissue), know exactly where and how they should be positioned. Chronic stress on any of these structures leads to pain and even loss of mobility. By working therapeutically, the body’s soft tissue is encouraged to return to its optimal position. Remember: soft tissue knows where it wants to be; sometimes it just needs some guidance.
To try massage therapy for a chronic pain issue, consider a minimum of three sessions before re-evaluating whether it is directly aiding in the healing process.
Stress Reduction. Taking time for self care is often placed at the bottom of the priority list, when it deserves to be at the top. A little can go a long way in preventing stress levels from accelerating, when one remembers to take the time to slow down.
There are many simple massage techniques that directly address the sympathetic nervous system, which is our “fight or flight” mode. Soothing this system allows the parasympathetic system, or “rest and digest” mode, to activate, which helps keep us calm. Massage therapy can be a wonderful, effective method of care for people who suffer from anxiety and other stress related conditions.
Release: What to Expect. The release that might occur from a therapeutic massage can be unpredictable, both physically and emotionally. Traumatic events from the past can linger in the body’s fascial network, which can be released through therapeutic touch – but not always intentionally. If you find yourself overcome with emotion during (or after) a massage, know that you are not alone: it happens more than you might think! The best thing to do is let it happen; this is your body telling you it’s ready to let go.
The “No Pain, No Gain” Theory. Does massage have to hurt? Absolutely not! Is there therapeutic benefit to feeling sore after a massage? Definitely!
As the saying goes, what works for one person doesn’t work for the next, and so with massage: the way two bodies respond to the same treatment can be drastically different. It comes down to the reason a person is seeking treatment and how their body responds to touch. One person can have great therapeutic release through the gentlest nurturing touch, while another needs their pain tolerance tested in order to feel therapeutic gain. Both are equally effective – it’s what works for you that matters.
For more information, visit www.nurtureandgrace.com.