Massage therapy for stress management is akin to aerobics for physical health—it is one of the beneficial practices you can use in conjunction with other healthy activities for a well-rounded management plan. Explore the impact of stress on mental and physical health, as well as the advantages of massage therapy, for every reason to go out and indulge in massage as needed.
Integrative health and holistic healing focus on the three-fold connection between a person’s mental, physical and spiritual health. The reason behind this approach is simple: each component affects the function of the other two components. For example, depression (mental) causes fatigue (physical), which can inhibit a person’s capacity for self growth (spiritual). One component, such as physical illness, can cause problems in the other two components, and so on—they are inter-related.
A link exists between physical health and emotional or environmental stress, which is more obvious in some areas than others. We all experience sweaty palms, shallow breathing and other symptoms of stress and anxiety while enduring a stressful event. But without stress management , these symptoms can worsen or lead to mental or physical health problems, such as an anxiety disorder or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Stress is (arguably) not the singular cause of an illness, but it decreases immune system function and can strain your coping abilities.
Stress also manifests itself physically by creating psychosomatic pain, such as headaches, back pain and the all too common “pain in the neck.”
This may be your body’s way of alerting you to the overload of stress, which (hopefully) encourages you to seek stress relief and management activities. This physical connection includes stress hormone levels, too, so even if you do not experience physical pain from stress, your mind and body suffers the strain in other forms.
The body produces increased levels of cortisol to “fight or flight” from stress and, without subsequent relaxation, cortisol levels decrease immunity. You can initiate the relaxation response through a variety of methods, but a massage will decrease your cortisol levels while promoting physical and mental relaxation.
Different forms of massage, such as Swedish or deep tissue, can target specific areas of the body to relieve pent-up stress or provide you with a session of overall relaxation.
Meet with your physician for an evaluation of physical pains, to rule out any underlying injury or illness, and provide your massage therapist with your physical and medical history. Massage therapists undergo rigorous training that includes gaining the ability to understand medical diagnoses that could impact therapy.
Note that massage can release toxins from your body and may trigger an emotional response; it’s important to follow through with any advice or directions from the massage therapist following a session and to alert him or her to any physical or mental responses you experience.
Use massage therapy for stress management as an alternative or partner to other relaxation techniques. Combine this with nutrition, exercise and other stress reduction methods for a holistic approach to healing and strengthening your mind, body and spirit.
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