Massages… Ooh la la
In honor of Everybody Deserves A Massage week, I’ve been browsing my options at the local spas and you should too! I have a strong relationship with any form of massage. For years, I treated myself to a massage on my birthday; then four years ago I began studying Traditional Chinese Medicine bodywork for animals. Yes, that is a thing. If you read my last blog post about horses, you may have picked up on that. I am a practitioner of small animal acupressure, to be exact. I’ve always loved getting massages for myself, but after studying bodywork through an acupressure scope, I had a renewed appreciation for all bodywork healers. There are a wide range of the types of massage you can get, but I am going to focus on some of the benefits of receiving any massage.
One of the most obvious benefits of getting a massage is relieving physical pain. We put a lot on our bodies, often with little rest. Without the proper restime and nutrition, the body has difficulty repairing the damage we do on a daily basis. I don’t know a single person who has never felt a knot in their muscles somewhere on their body. What exactly are those knots? We think of them as our muscles as being tied up tightly together. They are actually patches or bands of connective tissue, often called myofascial trigger points, that have become clenched or irritated. The tightness and inflammation that comes along with these knots can cause an incredible amount of pain. If you’re reading this and have never felt a knot in your back or shoulders, I’d love to know how you live! The physical discomfort that comes along with these myofascial patches can lead to a number of other issues, like limiting our range of motion, lack of sleep, pain in other parts of the body (headaches), and even affect our mood. By applying the appropriate amount of healing touch to those troubled areas, we can help loosen those tight fibers and relax the muscles.
To repeat myself, I’d love to meet the person who has never felt an ounce of stress in their life. In today’s society, we live in large communities and cities, where we are surrounded by so much energy. All of this energy, including the pressures of social media and the fast paced lifestyles that we put ourselves through, play a big role in the amount of stress and anxiety that falls so heavily into our minds. Stress, anxiety, and panic attacks can make us feel like life is falling apart. Stress can cause a lot more than emotional pain, however. Everything in the body is interconnected, so emotional stress can lead to headaches, muscular tension (see above paragraph), and even digestive issues. When we take the time to disconnect from the outside world, and spend time with ourselves during a massage, we can really clear our minds. There is a big push for self love these days, and I am all for it! In my personal experience, when I am feeling happier, relaxed, and more confident I am far more inclined to pay it forward to others. We create our happiness, right? So, we might as well start with a relaxing massage.
A less than obvious benefit of bodywork and massage is helping our bodies heal from injury or surgery. While, I would never recommend massaging directly on an injury or surgical location, healing touch is a great way to encourage circulation in the body. When the body is experiencing a trauma of any kind, it reacts with inflammation in that area. By stimulating the energetic pathways above and below the affected area, we prompt the body to bring vital fluids to that area to help heal. Likewise, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, these pathways (meridians) flow throughout the entire body; so a trigger point on your arm can help clear heat and inflammation from any part of the body. The human body is a pretty incredible interconnected machine in that way. Furthermore, you don’t need to have an injury or surgical trauma to benefit from this healing aspect. By massaging the whole body, we can incite better circulation throughout the whole system. Better circulation can lead to proper delivery of nutrients to our muscles and organ systems. When we feel good physically, we feel good emotionally.
In 2013, I began suffering from debilitating migraines. For those of you who have never felt a migraine, it can be worse with sounds or with light. Mine are light sensitive. Symptoms of migraines include (but are not limited to) pounding headaches behind one or both eyes, nausea, vomiting, obscured vision, and what is called aura experiences. Lucky me, my migraines were with aura. In other words, my senses were often obscured. My vision often felt like constant vertigo, but in a horizontal direction. People and objects appeared to be really up close or really far away from me. It was as if someone was adjusting the zoom lens on my eyes. Other sensory issues I felt were with my taste and touch. Some foods tasted very weird and different to me, and my hands would often feel gigantic. My acupuncturist at the time explained to me that headaches and migraines are often viewed as a stagnation of energy in the body. That stagnation can cause tension, leading to a headache, and even physical pain. Of course, the stress that can also come with having a headache does not benefit the situation. Receiving a massage can help move the stagnant energy along, and relieve one from headaches and migraines.
I’ve already stated that massage can lead to improved circulation in the body, and I’m going to say it again. Massage can lead to improved circulation in the body. This circulation of energy can help strengthen the immune system. By assisting in the flow of energy and vital fluids throughout the body, we can help provide our organ systems with everything they need to function properly. When our organ systems are working together to keep us moving at full capacity, it strengthens our immunity. Strengthening our bodies does not just happen by building muscle. While physical activity works wonders for the body, we also need to provide it with nutrients and healing touch to create and maintain balance. Everything in our body is interconnected. Our physical, emotional, and mental health all work together.
When one aspect of our health is compromised or imbalanced, it can affect other areas of our bodies. This is no different for our fur babies. This is where my specialty comes into play. I have a background in nutrition, so I often try to integrate a pet’s diet into my acupressure sessions. Sometimes imbalances or health issues can be linked to food and environmental sensitivities. I found out that my migraines were associated with a wheat and gluten sensitivity. If you think that you or your pets (dogs, cats, or horses) are suffering from a food or environmental intolerance, we can test a hair sample to help you narrow down the cause.
In addition to using our test to find out what may be causing symptoms, you could also look into body work to help balance out the body. Human massage therapists are much easier to find for yourself, but what about your pets? If you’re in the Atlanta area, I work at a dog daycare and grooming facility called The Clean Dog, Inc. We have two locations in Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park. At our newly renovation Inman Park location, I will be practicing acupressure for dogs and cats. It is something worth checking out (for the sake of your four legged loved ones) whether you’re in Atlanta or not. You could probably be able to find practitioners in your area online.
I hope you treat yourselves and loved ones to a massage, because every body deserves one!