When I was in massage school, I think one of the most remarkable things that happened, other than feeling knots actually melt away under my hands, was the amount of emotions that were released on the table during our hands on parts of our classes. I didn't really understand the concept of the mind-body connection until then. Quite often people who have suffered a large amount of trauma in their lives are the same people that are called to help others and in the safe, supportive environment of a massage school program many, many past traumas were released and let go. Now this isn't exactly normal in your every day massage session, but it is a testament to the power of touch.
What is normal in your every day massage session is clients walking out in what I like to call "massage coma", smiling, relaxed, slightly out of it due to all the feel good chemicals that the session has released in their brain, feeling "lighter", like they're "floating". All these sensations are the exact opposite of what we tend to feel on a daily basis. We feel stressed, tired, in pain, tight, sore, cranky. How can massage do so much for us and why is it still, in many cases, considered a luxury, not a part of a healthy regimen to prevent illness?
Massage has been shown to decrease cortisol levels up to 58% "A review of more than a dozen studies concluded that massage therapy helps relieve depression and anxiety by affecting the body’s biochemistry. Researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine reviewed studies that measured the stress hormone cortisol in participants before and immediately after massage and found that the therapy lowered levels by up to 53 percent. Massage also increased serotonin and dopamine, which are both neurotransmitters that help reduce depression." It also decreases blood pressure in as little as ten minutes, "Research has shown that hypertensive patients who received three 10-minute back massages a week had a reduction in blood pressure, compared to patients who tried to increase relaxation without massage. " Cortisol, being one of the main chemicals that is released when we are stressed and anxious, just as a reminder.
One of the ways to help people in the midst of a panic attack is to touch them, which can help ground them in the moment and get their minds off the anxiety their brain chemistry is subjecting them to. Now think about what an hour of touch can do to help ground and center a person. Humans need touch to survive. Now let's think about how much better we would feel if we did that on a consistent basis. There have been several studies showing that infants that do not receive enough touch do not thrive, just because we're all grown up, know how to walk, talk and feed ourselves, doesn't mean our brains and bodies work that much differently than they did when we were infants. We still need to be touched, and if we aren't getting enough healthy touch in our lives it affects us on multiple levels.
There is now study after study showing massage promotes healthy minds and healthy bodies, so why do we continue to view it as a luxury and something that is just a fun thing to do now and again? There are several reasons for this, one big one is that massage is an ancient healing system that, like so many others, was disparaged by Western Medicine for many, many years as "woo woo" and "primitive." Then we have the Puritanical issues about our bodies and touch which has, finally, been changing, thankfully. Plus massage got linked to prostitution, which is why we have licensing laws now. On top of all that was our societal taught disconnect between body and mind, due in large part to our lack of scientific understanding of how the body and mind all fits together. Even though the benefits of massage have long been accepted in other parts of the world, here in the US we need proof, and now we have it.
Where does all this take us? It needs to take us to where instead of seeing the cost for a massage as something that is a treat, see it as important as your yearly check ups, as any medication you are taking, as eating healthier foods or exercising. Massage can keep you from getting sick. That alone pays for itself in decreased sick time away from work or family. The $40-60 you pay for a massage is what many people pay for a gym membership, that quite often they never fully use. The benefits of massage are just as important and you don't have to sweat or even lift a single weight, all you have to do is book an appointment, relax and let go. Heck these days $50.00 is the same as a lot of co-pays to see a Doctor for 15 mins, you get a lot more time with a massage therapist for that money and it will do a lot more good for you.
Most of us would love to take more vacations, so we should consider a massage a monthly or even twice a month mini-vacation for yourself. Your body and mind will thank you.
Book Now with me to feel a million times better.
Kat is a LMT in AZ with close to a half decade of experience. She likes to talk to ppl about their health, make them feel better and get them to realize they have so much power to control their own health. Snarky yet informative, that's Kat in a nutshell. She's also available for personalized, targeted therapeutic massages, please see the scheduling page if you live in the Phoenix AZ area.