The winter holiday, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or another tradition can be both a wonderful and stressful time of year. Evidence-based medicine supports the practice of Registered Massage Therapy, the effects of which are known to release the cycle of pain caused by tight restricted tissues which are ischemic (lack blood flow). But what is perhaps less understood is how Massage Therapy can slow down parts of your Central Nervous System contributing to feelings of well-being and calm. The scientific evidence that supports these claims comes from the effects of Massage Therapy on the Autonomic Nervous System which is a part of your Central Nervous System made up of the brain and spinal cord.
You’ve probably heard of the two divisions of the Autonomic Nervous System referred to as the ‘Fight or Flight’ Sympathetic division or the ‘Rest and Digest’ Parasympathetic division. The Sympathetic division readies us for defensive action against perceived threats like a saber-toothed tiger coming at us, or at this time of year…holiday shopping experiences, or family gatherings.
The Sympathetic Nervous system readies us for action by sending out involuntary nerve impulses to raise our heart rate, increase the secretion of hormones into our systems and send more blood to our muscles so we can fight or flee. The Parasympathetic division is characterized by its role in sedating the body and restoring it to the resting state it was in prior to the sympathetic stimulation. It’s also the state in which we digest our food and restore our bodies.
While we may no longer be threatened by saber-toothed tigers, our nervous systems continue to react to lesser threats, i.e. Christmas shopping, as if we are, which can result in long-term anxiety, stress and lack of energy.
The interrelationship between pain, stress and emotions is complex. Swedish Massage, particularly ‘effleurage’ or slow stroking movements, has sedating effects on the body leading to the activation of the sedating Parasympathetic Nervous System. This, coupled with Endorphins (the body’s natural pain killing opiates) released during deep tissue massage, can have a profound effect on a person’s pain, stress levels, quality of sleep and general wellbeing.
There are many ways to handle stress. A good therapeutic massage is an excellent way to contribute to your or a loved one’s healthful enjoyment of this holiday season. I look forward to hearing from you to answer any questions you may have or to book you in for a Therapeutic Massage!
My best to you for this holiday season,