The Benefits of Massage for Stress
Nov 20, 2012
Stress has become increasingly common in the modern world, and it's synonymous with a fast-paced lifestyle. Although a little stress is necessary to motivate yourself to accomplish goals, constant stress can lead to acute and chronic stress disorders and an imbalanced nervous system. Massage therapy can reduce symptoms of physical and psychological stress. Use the benefits of massage to improve your quality of life.
The nervous system is your body's control center. It includes your central nervous system, which controls your brain and spinal cord, and your peripheral nervous system, which governs your autonomic nervous system. Your autonomic system separates into the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your stress response, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your relaxation response.
Massage stimulates and calms the autonomic nervous system. This restores balance to your body and eliminates symptoms associated with stress.
Manipulation and palpation of soft tissue evokes a mechanical response in your body. Your muscles relax, your heart rate slows and you take deeper breaths, which brings more oxygen into your lungs. A massage improves your blood circulation, so your muscles better receive nutrients delivered in the bloodstream. It also improves your lymphatic system, so it filters toxins and waste more efficiently.
An hour-long Swedish massage provides instant stress relief. Long slow strokes, known as effleurage, activate the parasympathetic nervous system to release the hormones oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. These hormones enhance your mood and promote feelings of calm and well-being. Your masseuse will alternate soothing strokes with stimulating palpation to activate your sympathetic nervous system, which will refresh you. This ensures the balance of your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, although the duration of a Swedish massage ultimately will result in an overall relaxed feeling.
Boost Immune System
A perceived threat of danger sends your body into the fight or flight mode, which activates your sympathetic nervous system. Stress chemicals are released to prepare you for the perceived threat. This response, necessary for survival, lasts momentarily. Continual stress causes the fight or flight mode to run constantly, activating the release of excess amounts of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
Acute and chronic stress weaken your immune system, which makes you susceptible to infection and allergic disorders. Massage significantly strengthens your immune system and improves your overall health. A 1994 study conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami examined the effects of massage therapy in HIV positive and negative men, according to EnCognitive.com. After the men received an hour-long massage, five days a week for a month, they experienced an increase in disease-fighting white blood cells. Their anxiety levels also decreased.
Lower Blood Pressure
Smoking, alcohol abuse and large quantities of junk food can all contribute to high blood pressure. Although moments of stress can temporarily elevate blood pressure, medical research has not yet proven it responsible for long-term hypertension. A 2008 article published by the Mayo Clinic suggests such stress-reducing activities as exercise and diet management can lower blood pressure. Massage reduces your blood pressure by promoting relaxation, relieving stress and lowering your heart rate, which in turn lessens your risk of heart disease and strokes.
Relieve Tension Headaches
According to a 2009 article published by the University of Maryland, 78 percent of the population suffered from tension headaches. Muscle tension and prolonged periods of physical and mental stress can contribute to tightness in your neck and scalp, leading to tension headaches. Massage therapy relieves tension headache symptoms by manipulating soft tissue to loosen your tense muscles, improving your blood circulation to nourish tissues and reduce pain.