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Muscle Tension, stress and anxiety can be the precursor to many conditions.  Some are chronic muscle pain, high blood pressure/hypertension, overuse injuries, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, compromised immune system and obesity.  Massage therapy with its many modalities can help relieve these conditions or minimize symptoms of them.

Neglected muscle tension can result in chronic pain and/or overuse injuries like torn or strained muscles.  It can be from sitting for long periods of time at a computer or a long rush hour commute, standing at work for numerous hours, repetitive work related motions throughout your career, or overuse from sports and exercise.  These can all result in a sore, achy and painful neck, shoulders, hips and low back.  The muscles become shortened giving that tight sensation, they accumulate metabolic waste and toxins, become knotted with losing range of motion and become susceptible to injury.

Stress is a natural response of the body and is actually a beneficial process.  When the body is presented with a stressor or experiencing anxiety there is a release of chemicals and hormones that increase heart rate and respiration (breathing), reduces blood flow to the digestive system and increases blood glucose (sugar in the blood).  This is what is known as the “Flight or Fight Response.”  The body is designed to respond to stress this way but it does not distinguish different types of stress. 

For example the body does not know the difference between being chased by a bear, losing a loved one, beating a deadline for a work project or even riding a roller coaster.  It is going to respond to all of these events with the flight or fight response.  Once the stressor is removed the body is then designed to rebalance itself to normal functioning.  The problems arise and health conditions begin to appear when one is constantly stressed.  This may be driving daily in rush hour traffic, running kids around to a number  of activities and having to make dinner while completing a project for work, a death in the family, going through a divorce and training for a specific sport.  When a number of these are present at the same time or even one for an extended amount of time there is no return to balance for the body and all the systems of the body becomes compromised and gets sick.

Massage therapy is the manipulation of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue using various techniques to enhance function, aid in the healing precess, decrease muscle reflex activity, inhibit motor-neuron excitability, and promote relaxation and well being (wikipedia.org/wiki/massage_therapy)

There are a number of massage therapy modalities that can contribute to the decrease of muscle tension, stress and anxiety.  Some of the more common approaches used by massage therapists are..

Swedish Massage:  This modality is great for relaxation and minimizing stress.  Is uses minimal pressure with kneading, compressions and long gentle strokes in order to increase blood circulation and lymph. This can help strengthen the immune system decrease blood pressure, increase muscle regeneration and remove toxins from the body.  Swedish Massage can be great for someone that wants to relax their mind and body in a soothing quiet environment.

Deep Tissue:  This type of massage uses deeper pressure with long stripping stokes in order to lengthen and loosen muscle tissue superficially as well as deeper layers of tissue, relieve knots, and restoring range of motion.  Deep tissue will also increase blood circulation and rid the body of toxins and metabolic waste as well as reduce or eliminate that tight sore feeling due to muscle tension.  People that sit at a computer all day or in a car for a long commute and have neck, shoulder, hip or back pain will benefit from a deep tissue massage.

Myofascial Release:  This therapy is used to release the connective tissue that supports and protects all structures of the body including muscle.  This connective tissue is call fascia and it can become tight and adhere to the muscle and structures in which it supports and protects.  Kneading, compression and long gliding strokes with minimal lotion or oil will relieve this tension created by tight fascia.  Someone experiencing that tight overall stiff feeling from overuse, stress, as well as overactivity and even under activity.          

Hot Stone Massage:  Using stones heated in water increases the temperature of the muscle tissue enhancing the effects of the massage.  Hot Stone Massage is great to enhance the effects of any of the above mentioned modalities.

The types of massage presented here are only a few of the many modalities used by therapists today.  There a many more which also require advanced education and training.  Some of those include Shiatsu, Reflexology, Rolfing, and Fertility Massage.  These special modalities can be beneficial for a number of conditions as well.  Before a massage session, the massage therapist will discuss with you your current and past health, your preferences and any contraindications and then they can personalize the session in order to maximize your mind and body experience.

Massage Therapy can alleviate muscle tension, stress and anxiety thus reducing the chances of developing conditions such as headaches, GI problems, insomnia, chronic muscle pain, high blood pressure/hypertension, obesity and allergies.  The more common modalities of Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue, and Myofascial Release can minimize risk as well as relieve symptoms of these conditions by allowing your mind and body experience the balance it needs.