Stressed? Time to Get a Massage!
Xin Zhang, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist
When you feel you are experiencing a stressful time in your life, consider massage therapy as a form of relief, as it offers more than just relaxation.
The Physiology Basis of Stress
There are generally two types of stresses. The first type is acute stress. This is when you are facing an emergency situation and your body prepares you to “fight or flee”. Under this situation, the branch of nervous system called sympathetic nervous system releases noradrenaline. This elevates your blood pressure by increasing the heart rate and it also cuts the blood supply to the digestive system to slow down the digestive rate.
The second type is chronic stress. This is when a person is under prolonged stress. With chronic stress, your body will constantly produce a steroid hormone called cortisol. This has the effect of compromising the immune system and telling the body to break down muscle fibers to produce more glucose (via the process of gluconeogenesis) which leads to muscle wasting. In addition, the body’s stored carbs and nutrients will get depleted and you may feel constant fatigue.
How Can Massage Therapy Help?
The branch of nervous system called parasympathetic acts against the sympathetic nervous system which tells your body to rest and digest. Massage therapy, with moderate pressure, has a profound function of activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This decreases your heart rate, increases the digestive system function, and most importantly decreases cortisol production. Therefore, it can help decrease blood pressure, increase the intake of nutrients, and could also increase your immunity.
So, the next time you feel you are under a lot of stress, remember massage therapy is here to help!