We all know the feeling: your heart starts racing, your mind is going a million miles an hour, your back begins to tense up, and you feel tension and anxiety creeping up on you. Yes, this is stress. Whether this is actual stress, or perceived stress, it’s still stress. If you work out regularly, you already know that a good workout can be the most beneficial thing you can do to relieve and even completely get rid of stress. Chronic stress can actually lower your immune system, make you feel tense and cranky, and will prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Other methods for stress reduction exist such as like progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery and biofeedback. One direct way to ease tension is through massage.
Besides massage being extremely relaxing, it is very beneficial especially for athletes and people who train. Massage is the therapeutic manipulation of the soft tissues in the body, and the aim of massage is to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the particular body part (1,2). There are also many different types of massages, and some may not be appropriate for others. For those with very tense muscles due to training, a sports massage such as deep tissue, shiatsu or Swedish massage may be more appropriate. For others looking for stress relief, a moderate pressure or light touch massage may be better. Aromatherapy massage is another option, which uses essential oils on the skin that can actually relieve swelling. Inhaling the aromatherapy oils can also positively stimulate the nervous, endocrine and immune systems (2).
If you do have a serious sports related injury, make sure your massage therapist is licensed and has experience. If you want to experiment on yourself, you can start with a simple hand or foot massage to relieve some stress. Research shows that even 10-20 minute hand or foot massage can reduce agitation, reduce blood pressure, and decrease pain (3). Why wouldn’t you try it?
2) Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for herbal healing: a practical A-Z reference to using herbs with vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements, natural healing techniques, and prescription medications. 2002.
3) Labrique-Walusis F, Keister K.J, Russel A.C. Massage therapy for stress management: Implications for nursing practice. Orthopedic Nursing: 2010 29(4):254-257.