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Ask a Therapist!! What is stress, and how can massage help?

Heather Jun 5, 2013

Merriam Webster defines stress as: a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.  Doctors for years have linked stress, and more specifically, Cortisol - the hormone most intimately linked with stress - to various diseases simply because it affects so many different systems in the body.  

Nobody wants to be in a stressed state, and yet nearly every one of us experiences it on a consistent basis.  Lucky for us, reducing stress is one of the primary benefits of massage.  Massage counteracts stress in several ways:

  • It feels great!  Don't discount the enjoyment factor for stress relief.  It gets you back in touch with your body and reminds you where you are holding unneeded tension.  It slows your breathing and encourages deeper breaths.  All of these things help you to relax and unwind both physically and mentally.
  • On a more anatomical level, massage moves fluid through and around soft tissue.  This helps to keep those tissues lubricated for movement, and allows the muscle cell to maintain a healthy state.  It keeps tension at a minimum and allows you to keep or increase your range of motion.  This is relaxing to your muscles physically. Yes, it feels good, but it is also good for you.
  • Massage has also been shown to decrease the level of cortisol directly.  This decrease is directly related to how often you get a massage, so receiving a massage on a weekly basis will affect your levels more drastically than getting a massage once a month or so.  As I am certain anyone who has received a massage has heard - massage works best when done regularly.
  • Massage also affects your blood pressure, and has been known to help with anxiety and depression--all things that can cause stress within a person's body.

Massage is a tool in your arsenal of wellness techniques.  Live a better life!

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