Massage therapy and stress

Practitioners of massage therapy and bodywork view stress as a condition of ''dis-ease'' in the body, a state of disharmony or an imbalance in one or more organ systems. In spite of the fact that many of us may not recognize the symptoms of stress for what they are, we fully understand the experience wide and varied as it may be!

Some of the more common symptoms that we may not be fully aware of are elevated blood pressure, increased pulse rate, insulin and other hormonal-based reactions, even disturbances in the flow of cerebral spinal fluid to our brains. These reactions in turn can and will result in the symptoms we are aware of; anxiety, anger, inability to focus, fatigue, insomnia, headache and a plethora of other physical symptoms that keep us in a chronic state of turmoil.

As pressure mounts, the background level of stress hormones in your bloodstream can become elevated to a point that very little is needed to trigger the stress response. You find yourself in a constant state of agitation, reacting not only to actual events, but to anticipated events and memories as well. If fact, with energy so depleted, many individuals come to rely on a stress-induced jolt of adrenaline just to get through the day.

Traditional medicine views stress mostly from a physiological and biological perspective, or what's commonly known as the medical model of disease. By focusing on what is called the ''organic'' medical model of disease, or a dysfunctional disease state, the treatment then tends to focus on prescription drugs and medications to decrease levels of stress -- the first choice being drugs to reduce a state of anxiety and relieve depression. The drugs do work and the symptoms of stress are relieved but without a look at the underlying psychological or emotional disturbances, an individual may continue to behave in a stress-based coping manner to situations, objects, or persons in his or her environment. Personally, I think it would be wonderful if medications intended to reduce stress and anxiety came with another prescription for counseling, therapeutic massage or biofeedback. The script could only be refilled if the individual filled the other half of the prescription for stress relief.

I truly wish everyone could receive massage. It certainly has changed my life and, most importantly, my levels of stress. Regular and consistent massage significantly reduces the high levels of maladaptive stress hormones and the symptoms they create. The touch in itself is relaxing and therapeutic and works at a core level to reduce and relieve the symptoms associated with stress.

Of course, there are many ways to reduce stress -- including improved diet, more rest, reduced contact with negative people and situations, time spent in creative play, sports or just spending time in whatever endeavor you may enjoy.

Although many times deeply buried, there's still a part of us of us that knows where that stress free comfort zone lies. Don't know where to look? Start in the yellow pages, it's under massage therapists!

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online June 12, 2001

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