Massage therapy is widely used to treat muscle pain and stiffness. More recently therapeutic massage has been used for the treatment of mental and emotional problems including stress, anxiety and depression.
Certain types of massages are deeply relaxing, and can help reduce tension and elicit feelings of calm. They work to manage the stress response that leads to uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, excessive sweating, chest pains and accelerated heart rate, amongst others.
Massage not only provides physical benefits, but also psychological benefits.
1. Massage alleviates muscle tension
Stress can be both physical and mental. Stress can occur physically within muscles after injury or from overuse causing a buildup of tension resulting in pain.
Massage relieves this tension by stretching and spreading muscle fibres and tissues in order for muscles to relax and loosen. When muscles are loose, movement increases and pain decreases. Tension in the muscle reduces.
2. Massage relaxes the body
Massage encourages relaxation. The atmosphere alone helps with the room usually quiet and dimly lit with soothing music playing softly in the background.
Various massage techniques also help trigger relaxation and encourage the patient to unplug from their daily lives.
3. Massage induces a sense of well being
A variety of physiological effects occur during a massage to help promote a sense of well being including an increase in secretion of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, consequently reducing the secretion of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Endorphins, serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters released by the stimulation of the autonomic system. Endorphins are responsible for relieving anxiety. Serotonin promotes a sense of well being and dopamine increases motivation. Together they create a lift in a person’s overall mood.
4. Massage improves sleep
As massage helps with serotonin production, it also helps to improve sleep as serotonin is the precursor to the body producing melatonin. This is why a massage improves the likelihood of falling asleep and staying asleep.
5. Massage reduces blood pressure
High blood pressure has been linked to stress. As therapeutic massages promote a relaxed state, which in turn can lower blood pressure.
Massages also improve blood circulation which serves to reduce any inflammation or swelling related to high blood pressure.
Massage Techniques for Stress Relief
Various massage techniques can be used to relieve stress. The most common ones include:
- Deep tissue massage
- Trigger pointing
- Lymphatic drainage
Deep tissue massage utilises firm pressure to get deep within the muscle tissues where a lot of muscle stress is found. Stress located deep within muscle tissue can cause severe pain and restricted movement. Deep kneading and stroking increases muscle temperature to increase tissue elasticity which loosens the muscles and reduces stress.
Trigger pointing is also another effective massage technique used to reduce stress. Trigger points are found in the centre of a muscle fibre where they often form knots. If not dealt with, trigger points can cause headaches, referred pain and can increase mental stress. Fingers and thumbs are used during massage to apply firm pressure to these triggers points to induce an ischemic reaction. An ischemic reaction is where blood flow is restricted to an area and then increases when pressure is released. Before the pressure is released, the pressure applied will start to soften, creating a numbing sensation. When the numbing sensation has occurred, more pressure can be applied depending on how deep or how big the trigger point is or the pressure can be released. Softening and numbing the trigger point reduces pain and headaches and relieves both mental and physical stress.
Lymphatic drainage involves the stimulation of the lymphatic system to remove metabolic waste in the body. Metabolic waste typically occurs after an injury or simply from the overuse of muscle from strenuous exercise. This waste increases muscle fatigue and can result in swelling and pain which restricts movement and prevents tissue from healing. This type of massage uses a variety of long, deep strokes to flush out the waste and increase blood circulation.
Many physiological effects occur during a massage to help relieve stress. Check out the various massages here at Gravity Float to see which one will suit your specific needs to help you alleviate any muscle tension and stress.