In this blog, I’ve written about how regular massage treatments can help stop stress before it becomes long-term and chronic.
What is Chronic Stress?
Life can be so stressful and demanding with its deadlines and responsibilities. Relationships can also make us feel emotionally stressed.
Chronic stress is when you’ve been feeling stressed for a while and is long-term.
In the short-term the stress response in our body is crucial as it mobilises it’s fuel resources in order to prepare us for the strenuous efforts required by fighting or running away.
Chronic stress isn’t good for you though and as well as helping to cause an array of physical health problems such as cardiovascular and autoimmune deseases, it can cause long term tension and pain in our muscles.
The good news is that there is lots of ways to help stop stress as getting to the chronic stage as scientific research tells us and receiving a regular massage is one of them. Other alternative therapies such as yoga and meditation can help too.
So, how can massage help us to feel great?
Well, let’s start with what happens when we feel ‘stressed’ and not great!
The stress response in our body responds to emotional/physical stressful states and then it coordinates a response known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. We can think of this response like when we see a threat (such as a lion) and our body goes into a state of acute stress and panic. Our body reacts in many ways because of this and one thing it does is release stress hormones such as Adrenaline and Cortisol.
Chronic stress can cause us to feel in a constant ‘fight or flight’ state but massage can help to reverse these physical effects.
The Limbic System is situated between our spinal cord and the Cortex in our brain and it links our emotional psyche to our physical state and physiological processes. It sorts out and reorganises the somatic (physical) expression of states such as anxiety, anger, depression, arousal and states of relaxation and emotional wellbeing.
During a massage session, the proprioceptors and other sensory modulators in our body communicate to the brain that the touch is pleasurable. The message then goes up through our spinal cord, into our brain and to the Limbic system and the Limbic system then decides that the touch is pleasurable and then communicates this message back to the body.
We can manipulate the decisions the Limbic system makes through massage and touch.
The psychophysiological response from the Limbic system is transmitted back to the body along three principal pathways:
The Motor pathway is the pathway which causes our muscles to increase or decrease in tone and tense up or relax, depending on whether we are aroused and stressed or relaxed and happy. In this case, the muscle tone would decrease and become less tense as we would be feeling good.
The Neuroendocrine and Autonomic pathways is when massage can cause our blood pressure to decrease, lower our heart rate and decrease levels of cortisol and increases levels of dopamine (dopamine increases concentration, memory, and general happiness).
Therefore receiving a massage can help us to feel more relaxed and most importantly, help us to stop feeling stressed so that it doesn’t become chronic. And even if you are suffering from chronic stress, massage can help get you on the path to recovery!