Minimize the Effects of Stress
Stress. How can one little word hold so much power in our lives? It fills our minds and settles into our bodies and can become something more — a medical condition or constant pain that affects how we perform, how much we can do, how we move … or don’t move.
We have become a 24/7 society, always working to do more in less time — running a business, running family members hither and thither, running a household — always running! And it’s stressful.
We may not be able to escape stress, but we can minimize its effects by treating and managing the symptoms of stress. Massage therapy and chiropractic care are two effective ways of doing both.
First, Value Your Assets
Women, in general, have a natural tendency to put their own well-being last. But, just as they say before a plane takes off: Put on your own oxygen mask first.
“Realize that we take time to go to the doctor and the dentist — why is massage any different?” says Penny Patterson Smith, owner of Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa (Harrisburg and Lancaster locations).
“It simply requires a mindset change — someone is helping you keep your body productive. Massage used to be viewed as an indulgence. Today, taking care of yourself by getting a regular massage is a smart choice to help avoid the long-term consequences of stress.”
Dr. Christine Maclary, chiropractor and co-owner of Maclary Family Chiropractic in Lititz, makes an excellent point: “Your health is your greatest asset!”
The reality is that, when you invest in your own health and well-being, you are taking care of everything else that’s important to you.
Using Massage to Manage Stress
Years ago, massage was about pampering and was reserved for the elite. Now, it has become more important in this society where we experience 24/7 stress — both mental and physical.
Dating back over 5,000 years, in Egypt, India, Greece, and Turkey, massage was thought to contribute to a longer life.
Today, massage is used to manage stress before it can manifest in the form of a medical condition.
The benefits of massage include: increased blood flow and improved circulation, increased strength and immunity, reduced fatigue, repetitive-motion symptom relief, natural relaxation, and even improved creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
Various types of massage address the source of pain and stiffness in the muscles in different ways. You and your massage therapist should determine what works best for you:
Swedish – This is the most common, best-known type, which uses long, fluid strokes of muscles and tissues. This is the most relaxing, using varying levels of pressure. Swedish massage promotes relaxation, increases circulation, and alleviates pain and stiffness.
Deep tissue – This deeper, more intense type of massage uses slow, deep, guided strokes and pressure. It is more deliberate, with focus on releasing tension, and is more therapeutic. This is for individuals who experience consistent pain and soreness, often in the back and neck areas, where we tend to hold stress, and can address large or small muscle groups. Deep-tissue massage helps to decrease pain, relieve muscle spasms, and increase mobility and range of motion.
Hot stone – This is the signature massage for Hand & Stone, using the same principles as Swedish massage with the addition of heated stones, which leads to deep relaxation. The penetrating effect of the stones allows the massage to be delivered without excessive pressure.
Sports – This no-nonsense massage involves stretching tight muscles and stimulating inactive muscles. Sports massage can enhance performance, prevent injury, and reduce post-workout recovery time.
Trigger point – This massage type uses concentrations of pressure on each trigger point (often called a “knot”) to release lactic acid buildup and reduce muscle pain and spasms.
More frequent treatments with a regular therapist can help them catch issues, such as range-of-motion changes, before they become serious problems.
At spas like Hand & Stone, they encourage more frequent, monthly visits by having lifestyle membership programs with special discounted savings for members.
Patterson Smith encourages anyone seeking massage treatment to consider the following when choosing where to go:
• A one-hour massage should include a consultation — time to talk with your therapist and discuss any medical considerations (such as recent procedures, oncology care, or pregnancy) to ensure that your specific needs can be met with the right therapist.
• Know that massage therapists must renew their license every two years, hold valid CPR and Act 31 (child abuse) certificates, and undergo background checks. For certain services, special certifications may be required.
• The environment should always be inviting and professional, and the client should feel comfortable. Clients should be properly draped and empowered to ask for changes in temperature, lighting, pressure, etc.
• By seeing the same therapist, the client will be able to track their treatment-plan progress.
Using Chiropractic Care to Relieve Stress
Your nervous system is housed within your spine. It controls every cell, tissue, and organ in your body. For good, strong healing to occur, it needs to work free from interference, known as subluxations — misalignments of spinal bone that cause nerve interference.
Subluxations are caused by three types of stress: physical (e.g., traumas, falls, or accidents), mental/emotional, and chemical stress (e.g., medications, pollution, chemicals in food, and drugs/alcohol).
When a subluxation is left uncorrected, it can lead to more serious problems in the body, such as migraine headaches, arthritis, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, autoimmune and digestive disorders, etc.
The purpose of the chiropractic adjustment is to correct spinal misalignments, taking the pressure off the nerve and enabling the body to heal itself from the physical effects of the stress.
Some benefits of chiropractic care include a strengthened immune system, decreased pain, increased flexibility, improved balance, improved posture, and strong healing.
Maclary advises that a chiropractic adjustment should never be painful and is usually very gentle. A chiropractic adjustment can either be done hands-on or with an instrument, which are both equally effective.
The ideal frequency of chiropractic care varies greatly, depending on a person’s health history. For example, someone who has been in a car accident needs more frequent care.
Overall, it’s important to consider that it takes time to get your spine back to a healthy, strong position.
“Much like it takes time to straighten your teeth with braces, it takes time and regular chiropractic adjustments to correct your spine and then maintain that correction,” says Maclary.
Between visits, there are ways to help hold or maintain the adjustment: be conscious of a healthy posture, get regular exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep, and avoid the stressor, if possible.
“It is worthwhile to note how beautifully chiropractic and massage can work together,” says Maclary. “While the nerves control the muscles, the muscles can also pull the bones out of their healthy alignment. We recommend massage to many of our patients, and we get many referrals from other massage therapists.” BW