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How Massages Can Help Ease Stress

How Massages Can Help Ease Stress

In small doses, stress can be a powerful motivator – unfortunately, in today’s high-pressure society, many people suffer from chronic stress, which can prove crippling both physically and psychologically. Effects of stress include headaches, loss of sleep, muscle tension, anger outbursts, substance abuse and more. Although many medications are available to help deal with stress, they often come with annoying side effects. Surely there must be a way to relieve stress without resorting to pharmaceutical products?

Well, you could always try a time-tested relaxation technique such as massages. Though the correlation between massages and stress relief is still somewhat undocumented from a scientific standpoint, ever-increasing amounts of evidence seem to indicate that massages can indeed help reduce stress levels or at least stress symptoms. Here are a few benefits of the “relaxation response” which massages induce:

  1. Releasing tense muscles. The most obvious benefit of massage on stressed individuals is its effect on muscles. As mentioned above, stress causes muscles to tense up, which in turn leads to headaches and generalized body pains. The techniques used in massage can help release these tense muscles, returning them to a relaxed state, releasing the nerves contracted between them, and avoiding the acute bodily symptoms of stress.
  2. Stimulating the creation of positive hormones. When you are stressed, the body produces hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine, better known as adrenaline. These hormones, intended to boost the fight-or-flight reflex to keep you alive in dangerous situations, can become very harmful in the long run if stress becomes chronic. When you relax during a massage, the body stops producing these hormones and instead produces beneficial ones like serotonin, which positively affects your emotions.
  3. Restoring normal circulation. When the body is stressed, the immune system and the digestive system are de-emphasized while blood circulation, which serves to bring oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, starts working overtime. While this is just fine to escape a predator, it’s not so fine when it becomes chronic, as it can lead to stomach aches, hypertension and lowered resistance to illness. When you relax during a massage, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure decreases, and the normal balance of the bodily systems is restored.

There exist several types of massages, and you might opt for one over another depending on the problems you’re experiencing. Swedish massage – the “standard” type of massage – is very good for relaxing tense muscles in general, while head massage focuses specifically on the cranium, which may be what you need if you suffer from headaches. Auricular acupressure massages, as well as aromatherapy, are very effective for endorphin release. So no matter what symptoms you experience with your stress, there’s a massage therapy that’s right for you.