You probably know that massage therapy can help to relax your muscles, improve your sleep, and even reduce your stress levels, but did you know that it can also help to boost your immune system? It’s true! In fact, stress and the effect it has on your immune system is a big reason why massage therapy can be so beneficial for helping you fight off colds and the flu. But that’s not the only way massage helps boost your immunity; massage will certainly help lower stress-causing hormones like cortisol and increase ‘feel good’ hormones like serotonin, but it does even more than that.
Have you ever wondered why some people get sick more often than others? And then there are those people out there who never get sick! What’s going on with them? Well, it could be that they handle stress better than others, and that may be because genetically their bodies naturally produce more ‘good’ immune system fighters, and have a better ability to decrease the ‘bad’ guys who can cause all that pain and discomfort. Alas, we’re not all built that way: some of us need a little extra help.
Clinical studies have shown that massage therapy on a regular basis can actually affect your levels of naturally occurring antibodies, increasing their levels to help fight off bacteria and viruses (that’s right, get a massage and you can skip your blueberry-banana-wheat-grass-protein-smoothie for once!). Not only that, but regular massage will help reduce your body’s production of cytokines, which encourage inflammation and pain throughout your body.
Furthermore, massage therapy helps to improve your blood’s circulation and lymph drainage, two systems that help to flush out those nasty little invaders that can hamper your immunity. Note, however, that it’s not good to get a massage once the bad guys have gained control and you’re feeling sick! Once their numbers are high enough, increased circulation can help them get around your body faster and wreak more havoc. If you’ve already come down with something, wait at least 3 to 5 days until your symptoms have dissipated before resuming your massage therapy sessions.
If you work really hard you deserve to relax. Even better, taking the time to get regular massage therapy from a registered massage therapist can help keep you from having to take sick days off and miss all that hard work you love to do! It’s hard to lead a stressful life when a weakened immune system gets in the way. So get proactive and get a massage today!
By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc
Although acupuncture is my specialty and not massage, I’ve been lucky enough to have had some great training in massage, and I’ve worked with massage therapists for several years. I’d like this blog to talk about what I think a good massage should be, according to what I’ve learned in school and in practice.
Just to give you some background, I am an acupuncturist trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and I have had my formal training in Tui Na, which is Chinese massage based on TCM principles of healing. In China one will usually have basic training in TCM and then go on to specialize in either herbs, acupuncture, or Tui Na. My program here in Toronto focused on acupuncture, but as a four-year course was still able to give us good training in herbs and massage as well.
So although I do not do Swedish Massage, which is the form taught to registered massage therapists in Ontario, I nonetheless have extensive experience massaging people and have had the opportunity to learn from RMT’s and to hone my skills to become what they are today – likely quite different from what I was taught nine years ago in school.
What I’ve learned is that massage is very different from person to person. One therapist may be loved by one patient, yet has another patient who does not enjoy their work. Luckily for me, massage is only a small part of what I do, and my work focuses on healing a specific ailment. If those symptoms decrease, and my patient feels better, then (more often than not) I have succeeded. RMT’s, on the other hand, sometimes have a much more difficult time going about their work. A patient may describe a set of symptoms, yet be expecting a relaxation massage and not want ‘real work’ done. Thus relief of their symptoms becomes secondary to their perception of what they had expected. And so the communication between RMT and patient in terms of expectations becomes very important.
My experience in dealing with people has also taught me something that I now apply to my practice, and indeed my life as much as possible: you can say or do pretty much anything to anyone as long as it’s done the right way. Easily said, not easily put into play in life! But it holds true, and the more I believe this and apply it, the more this comes back to me with verification of my beliefs. How do I apply this to massage? Simply that – call it ‘confidence’ – applied during massage. No one wants to be touched in a timid, non-confident way, and most of us who are expecting to be touched by another will enjoy it that much more if it comes with a measure of confidence. In fact, the more confident and positive the touch, the better we will feel!
So it comes that my massage is indeed the same in principal as the RMTs’ massages with whom I practice. In order to give a good massage, we must all do it with a certain type of energy: one that is confident and positive in nature. Done in this way, we will surely have more patients like us or not, regardless of how much we heal them. Or perhaps that positive energy is indeed healing them more than a repaired muscle healed with timid, negative energy would.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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