Continual or excessive stress can lead to problems involving sleep patterns, headaches, digestive issues, high blood pressure, anxiety, muscle tension and aches, sexual dysfunction and weight gain among others.
Massage Benefits for Stress
Massage is able to relax your muscles by reducing the tension that occurs in them from the stress response. All muscles hold stress but the ones we feel the most are those muscles that create headaches, or aches and pains.
Massage through different techniques has the ability to restore your body to homeostasis (normal state of health) by activating the parasympathetic system through touch. The parasympathetic nervous system (also called the rest and digest system) is a system that is activated and slows our heart rate and stimulates digestion. In order to do this, it shuts off the fight-or-flight system (sympathetic nervous system). This then allows our body to restore the hormone secretions back to normal. Massage is shown to restore our homeostasis by:
- Increasing delta brainwave activity which is linked to sleep and relaxation
- Increasing dopamine levels which are linked to decreased stress and reduced depression
- Increasing serotonin levels which is theorized to inhibit pain signals and reduce both stress and depression
- Reducing cortisol levels – increased cortisol heightens stress and inhibits the immune system.
- Reducing norepinephrine and epinephrine which are stress hormones
- Reducing aldosterone levels – reducing high blood pressure
Massage Therapy Principles and Strategies, Third Edition, Susan G. Salvo, 2007 (90)