Recent research uncovered that approximately five million Australians in 2016–17 were feeling stressed.
The good news is that massage can be a powerful treatment to help relieve this stress.
The benefits of a massage are huge, from relaxing muscle pains to relieving anxiety, but to be effective a massage therapist should know the reasons behind stress and how a massage actually relieves it.
How does massage relieve stress?
Massage not only provides physical benefits, but also psychological benefits as it gives people time to relax, rejuvenate, and refocus.
1. Massage triggers a relaxation response
Every individual reacts to stress differently. While some may not sleep, others may suffer from skin issues or radical changes in their eating habits. Most of the time, the different responses can all be pinned on the “fight or flight” response — the body’s physical reaction to stress. In addition to an increasing heart rate, elevating muscular tension and raising the rate of breathing, stress can also elevate the individual’s feeling of anxiety.
Massage can help this by encouraging relaxation. Different techniques can help alleviate tension in the body, which in turn alleviates stress in the mind. The atmosphere of the massage also helps, as it’s usually be practiced in a quiet and dimly lit room with soothing music playing softly in the background. All of these touches are designed to help the patient switch off from their everyday lives and unwind.
2. Massage helps with muscular tension
Muscular tension is a common symptom and a direct response to stress. Some patients may notice that their muscles relax after a stressful incident has passed, however if the patient is generally stressed, the muscle tension may be a permanent fixture in their posture.
Muscle tension can start a domino effect, leading to headaches, joint pain, chronic back and neck pain. It isn’t uncommon that this pain also leads to bad posture as the patient manipulates their body to alleviate the pain at hand.
Massages — Shiatsu massage and Swedish massage in particular — promote overall muscular relaxation through techniques such as rubbing, stroking, stretching, or the application of pressure. A massage therapist can help the body and the muscles return to a relaxed state alleviating the chronic pain. Patients may need more than a single massage to remedy the full impact of muscle tension, however the results of the first massage will speak for themselves.
3. Massage reduces blood pressure
Massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure, with results being seen even after one massage. Generally speaking, high blood pressure can be linked to stress. By promoting a relaxed state, massage can lower stress levels, which in turn can lower blood pressure. In addition to this, massage has also been shown to improve circulation, which may help to reduce swelling that may be occurring due to blood pressure issues.
It’s important to note though that while a lot more research is required, many patients have noted a decrease in blood pressure alongside regular massage therapy. It’s also important to note that if a patient presents with blood pressure issues, always advise that they see a healthcare professional.
4. Massage improves sleep
Many people who are stressed notice a decreased ability to get a restful night’s sleep. As massage promotes relaxation, it helps encourage a better sleep state. And while it can help those struggling to actually fall asleep, it can also help promote a better sleep. Sleep and stress relief can particularly be aided by aromatherapy massage as essential oils encourage restful sleep.
Massage also helps to produce serotonin which is the precursor to the body producing melatonin. This helps the brain to prepare an individual for sleep. By helping the body to produce serotonin, massage helps improve the likelihood of falling asleep and staying asleep.
5. Massage helps with mental health
As well as physical healing abilities, the human touch of a massage brings therapeutic relief to mental health burdened by stress.
The fact that the massage takes place in a safe, friendly and professional place makes it all the more beneficial. It encourages the patient to breathe deeply and concentrate on nothing but their breath. This helps them shift thoughts away from worries.
In fact, a US study found that following a massage, patients who were depressed and anxious saw a reduction in stress levels and came away from their massage in a much more relaxed and happy state.In another study, following a 45-minute Swedish massage, volunteers experienced a significant reduction in cortisol levels, otherwise known as the stress hormone.
Promote stress reduction
By creating a quiet and welcoming atmosphere, you can help your clients reduce their stress levels through massage. And as they leave feeling much better than when they arrived, you’ll start to see them coming back time and time again.