My specialty, and our specialty at Alchemy is assisting, guiding, and supporting the body in dropping out of an on-the-go aroused and stress-filled state.
There are dozens of studies that reference the value of massage and other hands-on modalities in reducing the body’s response to stress, inciting relaxation, and bringing calm to an over aroused person. There are also hundreds of studies showing how powerful massage is for actual healing - I could write about that all day as well, we see those successes regularly. Today I am focused on the simple value of relaxation.
Because I am fascinated by the fact that therapeutic massage, craniosacral therapy, lymph drainage, all of these forms of touch switch the system to a new place, switch chaos to relaxation. Bring us down off the ledge. And that is a much nicer place to live.
Even more importantly though, coming back to a place of relaxation, coming to know a life with less stress, learning to make choices, over and over that bring you to a place of peace. I think these are the choices that will bring us true health and well-being. No matter how long or short our lives are.
We know that massage can effect biochemistry with decreased levels of cortisol and increased levels of serotonin and dopamine across dozens of studies. These studies show us that the actions of intentional informed touch can bring real and lasting physiological change to the body.
That’s not a good enough reason to get a massage though is it?
They may be relaxing, but shouldn’t it do more to be health care or important?
And hey we are often proud of our stress, strut our “busyness”, our multi-tasking.
It has come to define us, and I invite you to let that one go - let’s look at shifting towards health instead. For me, I have learned to bring more and more stress relieving awareness and practices into my life over the years. That said, there is always more to do, however I am as gentle as I can be with myself - because if BEING HARD ON MYSELF WORKED - IT WOULD HAVE WORKED BY NOW!
That something so simple as getting a regular massage could really significantly change your body and reduce your stress response is wonderful and amazing to me. That is the news, that is what I want to crow about. That feeling after a massage - that wonderful place of relaxation, that not a care in the world, that slowness, that deep breath, that is the news! That is enough! We can create the space and time to make getting bodywork a priority.
I challenge you, add a regular massage with a quality licensed therapist to your life once a month. In six months, please share with me how your life has changed. I promise it will.
Amelia Mitchell, LMT, LLCC, BCTMB
A survey of over one thousand fibromyalgia (FM) patients revealed that regardless of age, gender, or duration of symptoms, people coping with this painful and fatiguing condition prefer massage therapy over other non-drug therapies (Fibromyalgia Network Journal July 2004)
“Fibromyalgia syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that include chronic pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues. It is one of a collection of chronic disorders that often go hand in hand. Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is frequently seen with chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, sleep disorders and several other chronic conditions.”
While Fibromyalgia is seen to be a relatively new condition, at this point we do have sufficient information to discuss its treatment with massage therapy. In 2000 the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) stated: "Fibromyalgia is another pain condition frequently seen by health care providers, and one in which there often is no universally effective treatment. Studies have found that up to 91 percent of people with fibromyalgia use some form of CAM, and up to 75 percent use massage therapy."
What are the results that patients with Fibromyalgia are receiving with massage?
Massage truly is an antidote to the feeling of being a cog in the medical machine. Patients, caregivers, health care workers and others under unremitting daily stress find massage is an oasis of peace in a frantic world.
What type of massage is recommended for Fibromyalgia?
Studies have shown that gentle massage (which does not cause pain) brings the greatest symptom relief over time. Intensity can be increased over time, if desired by the client, however maintaining a pain-free session appears to be important.
One thing that we have noticed at Alchemy with our clients with Fibromyalgia is that their symptoms, pain levels, and responses are quite variable, so there is no “one size fits all” protocol from person to person or even from session to session.
We use a foundation of classic Swedish massage, with added techniques from Lymph Drainage Therapy, Hot Stone Massage and Myofascial Release. Energy techniques such as Reiki can be very helpful during a painful flare-up.
How Often Is Massage Recommended?
Many report that a higher frequency of massage does help in reducing the symptoms more quickly, so weekly or even twice a week is somewhere to start. That said, at Alchemy, we are always looking to move our clients to a place of maintenance, out of a more acute situation. So we will be looking for what a good schedule is for your body. For some, it is weekly, for others massage less frequently still provides major benefits.
Notes from Catherine Whelan's Alchemy Evening Presentation
The Gut Brain Connection - A CranioSacral Perspective.
Ways to combat chronic stress: we are not trying to avoid stress we are trying to change our reaction to it.
“Adopting the right attitude can convert negative stress into a positive one”
Stephen Porges Poly Vagal Theory
Dan Siegel Wheel of Awareness
Hans Seyle first researcher of stress
Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger
Owner Amelia Mitchell, brings her years of experience as a therapist as well as a deep interest in wellness, self-care, and healing to Alchemy's blog.