Western medicine traditionally focuses mostly on science and pharmaceuticals to treat conditions and symptoms. Eastern medicine traditionally focuses more on holistic and mind/body therapies to treat conditions and symptoms. One of the great things about living in this century is we get to choose the best from both sides: East meets West medicine that includes complementary disciplines of holistic and science-based therapies.
Diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, supplements, medication, surgery and other treatments all can be used together to treat almost any condition, including high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease and more. With an understanding that stress–whether physical or emotional–has such a profound effect on the body, it makes sense that medical modalities that work to reduce stress can only have a beneficial effect on the body.
Stress can cause change in blood sugar, blood pressure, sleep cycles, pain tolerance and much more. Acupressure and massage therapy have been proven to reduce stress, and those improve overall health. These two alternative medical therapies, often used for pleasure and pampering, have true benefits to health by helping reduce stress, especially when practiced on a regular basis.
But reducing stress alone is not the only benefit from massage therapy and acupressure.
Lymphatic Fluid Release with Acupressure and Massage Therapy
Women, more than men, have a tendency to retain fluid and have fluid swelling, but during periods of stress, both physical and emotional, fluid retention is more common. Moving muscles helps pump the excess fluids from the body and let the lymphatic system drain. One of my favorite massages to receive from my massage therapist is the lymphatic drain massage. This light-touch, slow and easy massage promotes good muscle health and fluid release.
Acupressure for lymphatic drain puts pressure on the points of the body where lymphatic fluid tends to accumulate and stimulates that area, increasing blood flow and encouraging the muscles around the area to activate to help pump fluids from the body. Pressure is usually light and is held on pressure points for no more than a few seconds at a time, then released and pressed again.
One of the reasons reputable massage therapists will tell you to drink plenty of fluids or will provide bottled water after a massage is to help encourage the fluids to continue to drain without dehydrating the body.
Acupressure and Massage Therapy Releases Toxins from the Body
For the same reason the lymphatic fluid release and acupressure massages help remove fluids from the body, toxins are also removed by massage. As the fluids that have built up in the body drain and are replaced with fluid hydration (drinking plenty of water after a massage), built up toxins flush out. Regular massage and acupressure can help reduce body toxins and help promote wellbeing.
Myofascial Release with Massage and Acupressure
The myofascial layer of the body is between the skin and the muscles and it is what helps the skin slide smoothly over the muscles when we move. If the myofascial layer is dehydrated or not in optimal condition, the skin has trouble sliding smoothly over the muscles, and this can cause reduced mobility, limited flexibility and pain. Deep massage and proper trigger point acupressure can help release any tightness or binding of the myofascial layer and increase flexibility and reduce certain types of pain. In fact, there is anecdotal evidence that myofascial release massage and acupressure can greatly reduce incidence of fibromyalgia pain and flares.
Other Benefits of Reducing Stress with Massage and Acupressure
When massage therapy helps with stress, muscle fatigue, pain, relaxation and flexibility, the body handles stress better when it is faced with a stressful situation. Regular massage and acupressure can prevent injury, pain and reduce stress before and after a stressful situation occurs.
Reducing stress improves blood sugar stability, reduces the taxing of the adrenals, decreases or stabilizes fluctuating blood pressure, reduces anxiety, and so much more. Massage therapy, depending on your conditions and needs, can also help improve headache pain, reduce body and muscle aches and pains, and promote a general feeling of wellbeing that can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
It is important to consult with your traditional medical practitioner, particularly if you have medical conditions, to ensure you are healthy and well enough to handle massage therapy and acupressure. For example, a woman prone to blood clots in the legs might be told to avoid massage on the legs, but she might still be able to get a neck and head massage or a lymphatic drain massage. Acupressure should be acceptable for most conditions too.
If your health professional indicates massage therapy is safe for you and your medical conditions, search for a licensed or registered massage therapist in your area, and if you can find one who performs sports massage, all the better. These sports specialists are trained in stretches and releases for muscles, even for people who are not active in sports. Swedish massage is relaxing and comforting, deep tissue massage helps move toxins and fluids and soften tight muscles, and lymph massage is gentle and soothing. Ask about the different types and mix it up each time you go. Weekly massage therapy can greatly increase your mood, your flexibility and your health.
~Massage therapy training classes.
~John F. Barnes, PT, “Myofascial Release: Definition”, retrieved May 1, 2011
~Bruno Chikly, MD, “Lymph Drainage Therapy”, retrieved May 1, 2011
~Mayo Clinic Staff, “Stress Symptoms: Effects on your body, feelings, and behavior.”, retrieved April 30, 2011
Please consult your physician or licensed medical practitioner to determine whether massage or acupressure would complement your traditional therapy and whether or not you are healthy enough for massage treatment.