The Value of Massage

I was recently asked the value of massage? I am a massage therapist, massage instructor, and have received massage regularly for most of my adult life, yet, I found myself pausing before answering the question. I have been participating in the massage world for so long, I take its value for granted and give it little thought beyond scheduling my own massage or preparing to give a massage to a client.

My first answer to her question is that massage is an essential part of my self-care routine along with exercise, good food, rest, yoga, and meditation. I get massage regularly — once a week when I can and, at the very least, twice a month — because I can’t imagine my life without it. Massage, both giving and receiving, has been a valuable part of my own healing from childhood trauma. Massage helps me relax when I can’t on my own or simply want the support to relax. Massage is therapeutic when I’ve been injured or have overworked muscles from exercise or work (and too much snow shoveling) – it facilitates my own healing and balancing. Massage also allows my mind to relax as I get to receive care from someone else’s experienced touch.

I am an advocate for regular massage whether once a week or several times a year. Massage balances our nervous system by boosting our parasympathetic nervous system responsible for the relaxation response as well as decreasing inflammation, lowering heart disease, and increasing heart rate variability (an important marker for overall health). Massage also lowers blood pressure, aids in creating a quiet mind, encourages our immune systems to work better, inspires our body’s healing systems, and improves circulation. Massage helps facilitate healing from stress, overexertion, injury, and emotional upset. Massage also facilitates the release of Oxytocin, the calm-and-connect, feel good neuropeptide I spoke about in my last blog post.

Massage is safe touch so I don’t need to worry about unsavory or unwanted touch. I know I can talk with my massage therapist if her touch is too firm or too light. When I work with clients, I encourage them to let me know if my strokes are painful or too light. I tell them that they live in their bodies, I don’t. So communication along the way is essential for me to do my best to serve their needs.

[Note: I do know there are those uncommon & unfortunate scenario’s where massage therapists overstep safe touch boundaries. Unfortunately, those are the folks who give massage a ‘bad’ name.]

Massage is self-care, which I encourage all my clients and/or students to include in their health protocols. I am grateful I learned the value of self-care early in my adult life as everything I do for myself, my health, and happiness allows me to be more fully present in my work and enjoy a full, healthy, and active life.

If you have never tried massage, go and schedule one today. If massage doesn’t appeal to you, consider acupuncture, acupressure, shiatsu, or acutonics as part of your self-care. You owe it to yourself.

Massage, Health, and Oxytocin

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This weekend I get to do something I love doing and look forward to every May and August! I go to Camp Unleashed right here in Becket, MA. Yes, Camp Unleashed is all about dogs and their people. For three days, people come out to a YMCA camp in the woods of Becket with their dogs and do everything involving their dogs. They play, learn, swim, hike, and deepen their bonds.

What do I do? I get to lead Canine Massage workshops in the evenings — teaching and leading people in how to massage their dogs for health, healing, and being better advocates for their dogs by being the first to notice when something changes or goes wrong – conditions like arthritis (joint pain), injury, growths, and ticks which can lead to Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases (and yes, tick borne diseases are as unpleasant for dogs as they are for people). Both evenings are fun and relaxing for everyone!

Why am I writing about this? Canine Massage is an evening about being happy and healthy for both the dogs and their people! Many of us know the benefits of receiving massage. Our health improves through the skilled and healing touch of massage in many ways such as needed relaxation, improved circulation, lowered blood pressure, reduced stress hormones, and healing from strain or injury. For dogs, the benefits are the same when they receive massage. Massage calms them when they need calming such as after a long hike or when they are nervous before or during a storm. Massage can be done to energize them when they are getting ready for agility and/or show events so they are at their best. Massage improves healing times, increases circulation, lowers stress hormones, and increases the bonds we have with our canine companions.

Another important benefit of massage is the increase of oxytocin in both ourselves and our dogs — especially when we also include eye contact. Oxytocin is the hormone that not only leaves us feeling good, it also decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) which strengthens our immune system and our health. Oxytocin’s effects go even further — it plays an important role in social bonding and attachment while building trust. Also, when we increase our levels of oxytocin, we are more likely to experience a calm-and-connect response which aids in our feeling good and receiving all the benefits of massage — isn’t that something we’d all rather experience?

If you have a dog in your household, consider taking a few minutes to give some calming massage. It’s easy to do, fun, and you will both feel calmer and healthier.

If you don’t have a dog, no worries! You can massage your cat. You can also share massage with all the members of your family. We all deserve more oxytocin and the healing that comes from even a few minutes of a shoulder or foot massage.