Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stress-Less Holidays

By Joel Curry, MSW, CMT, Pathways to Health

It is one the ironies of our age that many people dread the holiday season.  A time that is given to communal and religious celebration evokes a dreaded response in many of us: STRESS! How can we approach this holiday season and avoid the negative effects of this dis-ease of modern times? 
 The key to avoiding stress may lie in a combination of activities that either prevent tension, i.e., planning, budgeting, to-do lists for gifts and projects; or involve direct tension relief methods like receiving a therapeutic massage.   Massage therapy is proving to be a first-line form of treatment for holiday stress related conditions.

 Under stress muscles can become chronically tense, knotting and going into spasms, causing pain receptors to be triggered and severe pain to be felt.   Fascia, which begins just beneath the skin and continues in layers throughout the system, is the web of elastic connective tissue that holds muscles, bones, and organs together.  Stress and tension dehydrates, thickens, and shortens fascia and contributes to discomfort in the body. 

 The action of massage further helps restore the elastic texture of fascia and the fluidity of muscles, relieving pressure on pain receptors, and generally bringing about a feeling of well being in the body. The reduction of stress is a proven benefit of massage therapy.

 A number of physical symptoms can be a result of  chronic stress.  Controlled studies now show that there is an increasing amount of scientific verification of the beneficial effects of massage therapy for stress related symptoms. A study reported in the  Journal of Clinical Rheumatology on the effect of massage on fibromyalgia found that massage improved mood and sleep, and levels of substance P, a neurotransmitter in the pain fiber system, decreased, along with the number of tender spots in the bodies of participants.  The massage sessions combined Swedish massage and shiatsu done with moderate pressure and stroking of the head, neck, shoulders, back, arms, hands, legs and feet.  Subjects received 30-minute massages twice a week for five weeks. 

 So, this season, besides thinking ahead and getting organized, consider massage therapy as an effective way to counter the effects of holiday induced stress.

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