Therapy and Relief
Depression and Anxiety
Massage is proclaimed as one of the first treatments available for depression. However, with the advances in science and technology in the 1940s and beyond, the treatment of massage for depression unfortunately became replaced by drugs. Studies by The Touch Research Institute in Flordia have shown that massage reduces depression and anxiety and leads to a decrease in the levels of stress hormones in the bodies of participants and clients. Studies suggest that increased activity of the parasympathetic system may be the cause of these changes. However, a psychological component may also make a contribution.
Patients in studies have reported reported reduced anxiety following the initial and final massage sessions. These patients also showed changes in behavior and stress hormone levels.
Whether it is through exercise, counseling, 12-step or some other approach, the patient is asked to think, communicate or practice a new skill throughout much of rehab. Massage is different, as it is one therapy that is almost wholly passive, yet it yields significant benefits. A 1998 study conducted in Norway helped to show how massage therapy benefits patients.
Stress is a serious impediment to addiction recovery. Patients who feel stressed and anxious are strongly tempted to return to substances to soothe those feelings. In addition, stress hormones directly affect the reward chemical dopamine. This means that the person who has little practice in successfully managing negative emotions may feel doubly deprived and needy. Massage therapy is highly successful in reducing stress.
The Norwegian study demonstrated that massage therapy not only reduces stress, but it produces a 16 percent rise in beta-endorphins. Like dopamine, endorphins give pleasurable sensations. With less than an hour of tactile manipulation, patients can feel less agitated and more positive and all apart from use of any substances. This positive attitude then contributes to the success of other drug rehab therapies.
Massage therapy not only reduces stress and increases positive feelings, but it also helps patients become more self-aware. Massage helps patients slow down, block out distractions and focus on being calm. With regular massage sessions, a patient becomes more attuned to signals from their body especially where tension and stress are taking hold. The patient who has been practicing relaxation will recognize symptoms of anxiety and stress more quickly and has experienced dealing with those emotions in a positive way.
Many drug rehab programs begin by helping patients to detoxify their body. Massage therapy is helpful here as well. Through massage, muscles are loosened and endorphins are released, but the increased blood flow massage produces also aids detox by nourishing tissues and increasing lymph drainage. In a real sense, massage therapy releases good chemicals and helps to wash away bad ones.
Massage therapy has been proven to help patients relax, get rid of stress, heighten awareness and brighten their outlook. It aids in detox and boosts the potential for other therapies. Massage can reduce cravings and even helps to lift depression and pain.
In light of recent world events Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, has been a subject of much discussion in the news. However, it is not only troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from PTSD. Healthcare workers from many different disciplines are seeing increased numbers of patients from all walks of life presenting symptoms of PTSD. Many of those who are seeking help with PTSD prefer alternative or natural approaches to ease some of the burdens of the affliction. Massage therapists and other “body-workers” are increasingly being called upon to offer some solace to those suffering from the emotional and physical devastation of PTSD.
It has been estimated that 70% of the adults in the US have experienced a trauma severe enough to result in PTSD. These events can be military combat, a terrorist attack, natural disasters, a violent crime, or horrific accident. Of those who have gone through such an event, about 8% of men, and 20% of women will go on to develop PTSD. PTSD is a complex disorder, with long ranging consequences. A person with PTSD is unable to “let go” of the traumatic episode they have witnessed or experienced, and they relive it again and again. Typical symptoms of a person with PTSD will include:
- Flashbacks and Nightmares
- Difficulty sleeping
- A feeling of detachment or distance
- Chronic pain or fatigue
How Can Massage Help? According to Western medicine, the symptoms of PTSD are the result of imbalances in brain chemicals triggered by emotional stress. These chemicals, including neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which affect behavior, feelings and cognition. By reliving the traumatic event, people with PTSD are always in a heightened state of anxiety. The brain is unable to turn off the “Fight or Flight” response, and their bodies are constantly flooded with stress hormones that cause not only emotional, but physical pain, as muscles are constantly tensed for action. Massage therapy and other bodywork such as Cranial Sacral, can not only relax tensed muscles and ease the physical pain, they can trigger the body’s relaxation response, breaking the cycle of fight or flight.
Massage therapy is an excellent addition to a treatment plan for sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Once a person is able to relax through massage, circulation improves, sleep patterns can return to normal, and a more relaxed patient is more open to other modalities such as talk therapy that can help them resolve the issues at the root of his or her PTSD.
The best way to over come migraines is to consult with your therapist about the different therapies you have already tried. There are several factors that could be the issue. I have counseled many of my patients with an accuracy of 95% decrease in migraines occurrences. 9 out of 10 of my patients have over come their migraines with in 2 month of therapy and the 1 person that takes longer than 2 months, I have found had more factors than just physical. We were still able to resolve the migraine within 6 months.
The therapy I have found to be the most effective is Cranial Sacral therapy. It is a light therapy, not massage work, to release the pressure on the skull. Through facial manipulation I am able to create the space needed for the excess blood that is pulled into skull, by whatever factor the body had created to start the migraines, out of the skull. That is why patients have numbness, vision issues and hearing and tasting impairment, because of the excess blood in the skull. I haven't had a migraine in 10 years, because of the therapy that is called Cranial Sacral therapy.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes a tension headache as follows:
"…previously called muscle contraction headache, [it] is the most common type of headache. Its name indicates the role of stress and mental or emotional conflict in triggering the pain and contracting muscles in the neck, face, scalp, and jaw. Tension-type headaches may also be caused by jaw clenching, intense work, missed meals, depression, anxiety, or too little sleep. Sleep apnea may also cause tension-type headaches, especially in the morning. The pain is usually mild to moderate and feels as if constant pressure is being applied to the front of the face or to the head or neck. It also may feel as if a belt is being tightened around the head. Most often the pain is felt on both sides of the head. People who suffer tension-type headaches may also feel overly sensitive to light and sound but there is no pre-headache aura as with migraine. Typically, tension-type headaches usually disappear once the period of stress or related cause has ended."
According to the Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology: "By far the most common type of [tension-type] headache people experience (90-92%), these are triggered by muscular tension, bony misalignment, postural patterns, eyestrain, temporomandibular joint disorders, myofascial pain syndrome, ligament irritation, or other musculosketetal imbalances. Tension-type headaches may also be described as episodic (happening fewer than 15 times per month) or chronic (happening more than 15 times per month)." Also stated in the reference: "For the most common tension-type headaches, massage is resoundingly indicated. These episodes are an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how many seemingly disconnected postural and movement patterns can create pain in an entirely different area of the body."
Research has shown that in respect to tension headaches massage can:
- reduce depression and/or anxiety
- decrease perceived pain
- decrease anger status
- decrease tension
- reduce frequency
- reduce intensity
- reduce duration
- decrease medication usage
- increase range of cervical motion
Those patients who seek relief from tension headache pain can benefit from massage therapy given by professional massage therapists working within their scope of practice.
TMJ stands for Temporal Mandibular Joint, or when you have a problem it is called TMJD, Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction. What has happened is the jaw has become "locked" and its making it hard for paitents to chew, or have teeth grinding issues or they hear a clicking sound. These issues are not permant. I have had infants, children and even adults overcome the problems of TMJD from Cranial Sacral therapy. It is a light therapy, not massage work, that releases the fascia in the face to "unlock" the jaw from its "locked" state. Many people had hearing issues or inner ear issues that go a long with this dysfunction. Cranial Sacral therapy goes into all the facial bones and cranial bones to release the tension and pressure that was created from trauma or an accidents.
For several years I suffered with back and foot pain. I spent a significant amount of money on orthotics, doctors, chiropractors, etc. without any real relief. I went through structural massage with Steffany. The results have been miraculous. Between her incredible skills and my diligence with the therapy exercises she taught me, I no longer need the orthotics and my back only bothers me occasionally. I am a year out from my original treatment and the changes are holding.
- Dawn L.
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