Categories: Health & Wellness

Lizz Sookdeo

Massage Therapy As A Stress Reducer

Massage Therapy As A Stress Reducer

In the fast-paced world of the modern workplace, the demands of the job can often lead to increasing levels of stress, making it essential to find effective ways to manage this stress. Massage therapy stands out as a powerful stress reducer, offering a way to combat the mental and physical fatigue that comes with approaching deadlines. Even when your job isn’t physically demanding, the pressure can cause muscle tightness or soreness, disrupt your sleep patterns, change your appetite, and lead to stomach issues. As deadlines draw nearer, finding peace becomes more challenging, highlighting the importance of massage therapy as a stress reducer in maintaining well-being in our busy lives.

Why Does Stress Affect The Body?

When we’re stressed, our body reacts like it’s in danger, producing a hormone called cortisol. This was useful for our ancestors in dangerous situations, but today’s stresses, like deadlines, don’t need the same physical response. Yet, our body reacts the same way. This can lead to feeling sore and uncomfortable because of too much cortisol, which can be a problem for anyone trying to feel better or for those with health issues, making recovery harder.

These, among several similar circumstances, all are categorized as “stress responses,” a situation that occurs when the body, adapted to address circumstances that might have put our ancestors in danger, activates the production of cortisol, a hormone that induces these responses, that travels through the bloodstream, influencing the body to prepare to react. This is a natural reaction of your nervous system, of your sympathetic nervous system, to be exact. This is the part that drives a fight or flight response when you find yourself in stressful situations. Unfortunately, while the body evolved to prepare for these dangerous moments in the distant past, modern-day experiences usually don’t require the body to defend itself. Still, the body doesn’t discern the difference. The fight or flight system we’ve all inherited over generations considers deadlines and threats the same.

Everyone will encounter the results of stress responses more than once and feel the results of excess cortisol, which causes discomfort and soreness. Despite being completely natural, symptoms of stress from the excess cortisol can cause difficulty for anyone seeking to improve their well-being, such as looking for solutions to improve sleep or overall quality of experience from day to day. In more complex health situations, such as cancer patients or those going through pregnancy, cortisol often can cause issues to arise and pose a severe threat to recovery.

Outside stress affecting the diagnosis, dedicating long hours to a work task, or planning extensively for essential events can trigger the production of cortisol in response, creating a situation observed as “occupational stress.” That means often, a determination to complete what needs to be done will result in tension and soreness and a breaking of good sleep and diet habits. The longer this is ignored, the harder it gets to prepare for the additional effort needed for the next task in the queue.

While acknowledging cortisol as a natural part of our body’s system, one asks whether or not there’s a solution to address the body’s often mistimed release that causes more complications than solutions dependent on the circumstances.

How Does Massage Help With Stress?

Massage therapy works by applying pressure and movement to the body’s soft tissues, including muscles, connective tissue, and tendons, to improve circulation and flexibility. Techniques like myofascial release target the fascia—the protective layer surrounding muscles and organs—to relieve pain and restore mobility. By focusing on these areas, massage therapy helps to break down knots and release tension, allowing the body to feel relaxed and rejuvenated. This holistic approach not only eases physical discomfort but also promotes a sense of mental and emotional well-being.

Studies on the positive effects of massage therapy have shown numbers and results that indicate that pursuing a massage routine is a viable solution to reducing the impact of stress on health. For various situations that encourage the production of cortisol, such as the stress from pregnancy, work-related stress, symptoms of pain, or aging, massage therapy showed over time results in a reduction of 20-30% in cortisol levels while showing an increase in serotonin and dopamine, both chemicals in the body that can increase relaxation and positively affect mood and health.

Increased cortisol levels like those associated with a stress response can induce health-related consequences that affect diet, sleep, and overall disposition. In that case, as a natural result of work or exceptional health-related circumstances, looking for a means to aid and reduce these effects can improve quality of life and often overall results. Being able to eat and sleep better alone is a huge benefit, and with the amount of research proving that cortisol levels decrease with repeated sessions of massage, seeking this form of repair is noteworthy. In addition to controlling stress hormones, massage therapy can have many beneficial effects including, helping to relieve pain, aid in sports injuries recovery and leads to improved circulation. There is also ample evidence that massage helps with the management of fibromyalgia symptoms and chronic pain associated with cancer treatments.

Types of Massages for Stress Relief

  • Deep Tissue Massage: Use deep pressure, targets deep muscle layers to relieve tension. Deep tissue massage focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue, offering significant relief from chronic muscle tension and pain.
  • Swedish Massage: Gentle and relaxing, good for overall stress relief.
  • Sports Massage: Helps with muscle soreness from physical activity.
  • Trigger Point Massage: Focuses on specific areas of tension.
  • Aromatherapy Massage: Uses essential oils for added relaxation.
  • Prenatal Massage: Designed for the stress and body changes during pregnancy.

Benefits Beyond Stress Reduction of Massage Therapy

  • Improved Sleep: Helps you sleep better by reducing stress.
  • Pain Relief: Alleviates muscle tension and soreness.
  • Boosted Mood: Increases serotonin and dopamine for a happier mood.
  • Better Circulation: Enhances blood flow and health.
  • Enhanced Immune System: Reduces stress-related risks and improves overall health.

5 Ways to Relieve Stress

  1. Massage Therapy: Engaging in regular massage therapy, including deep tissue and Swedish massage, can significantly relieve muscle tension and reduce stress. Massage therapists use various techniques, such as trigger point massage and aromatherapy massage, to address the body’s stress response, promoting relaxation and well-being.
  2. Physical Activity: Incorporating regular exercise, such as sports massage after physical activity, can help manage stress levels. Activities like yoga or tai chi also support the parasympathetic nervous system, enhancing your body’s relaxation response.
  3. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices that focus on the present moment can significantly lower stress levels. Techniques like systematic review and meta-analysis have shown that mindfulness can improve mental health, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase overall emotional well-being.
  4. Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking or excessive caffeine intake can help manage stress. Integrative medicine suggests combining these lifestyle changes with therapeutic massage and physical therapy for comprehensive stress management.
  5. Social Support: Spending time with friends or family members can be an effective stress reliever. Sharing your feelings, enjoying social activities, or even getting a hand massage from a loved one can promote relaxation and improve your quality of life.

Best Way to Deal with Stress and Anxiety

The best approach combines several strategies tailored to an individual’s needs, including massage therapy, physical activity, mindfulness, making healthy lifestyle choices, and seeking social support. Engaging in regular massage sessions can notably reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as muscle tension and high blood pressure, while practices like mindfulness and physical activity address the mental and emotional aspects.

How to Control Mental Stress

  1. Mindfulness Meditation: Regular meditation helps in focusing on the present, reducing overthinking and anxiety.
  2. Breathing Exercises: Techniques like deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, counteracting the stress response.
  3. Setting Realistic Goals: Managing your expectations and breaking tasks into manageable steps can significantly reduce stress.
  4. Time Management: Effective time management techniques can help prioritize tasks and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.
  5. Seeking Professional Help: Therapists and counselors can provide strategies and support to manage mental stress effectively.

The 5 A’s of Stress Management

  1. Avoid: Steer clear of unnecessary stressors by learning to say ‘no’ and setting boundaries.
  2. Alter: Change situations by expressing your feelings and asking others to change their behavior when necessary.
  3. Accept: Some stressors cannot be changed. Accepting them without resistance can reduce the stress they cause.
  4. Adapt: Adjust your expectations and attitude to make stressors more bearable, focusing on the bigger picture.
  5. Adopt: Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes massage therapy, regular exercise, and a balanced diet to enhance your ability to cope with stress.

Choosing the Right Kind of Massage Therapy

Incorporating massage therapy as a stress reducer, along with these strategies, can provide comprehensive relief from stress, addressing both the physical and mental aspects of stress for improved overall health and well-being.

Talk to a professional like Sonya Benge a licensed massage therapist, and part of the knowledgeable team at MediSpa at Choto, to find out which type of massage is best for you. Whether it’s relieving work stress, improving mental health, or managing pain, massage therapy offers a natural and effective way to feel better and reduce the impacts of stress on your life.