Massage therapy has literally and figuratively touched my life. I have been a professional ballerina since age 17. When I was 19 years old, and dancing for Houston ballet, I experienced an array of injuries in my foot and even though I listened to every piece of advice western medicine could provide, I could not seem to heal under their care. This injury nearly ended all of my dance dreams, forfeiting the blood sweat and tears I had dedicated to my craft. That is, until a dear friend of mine sent me to his mother, who was an incredible massage therapist and craniosacral practitioner. After one session with her, I found more relief than I had found over a year of dancing through my injury under the care of an M.D. and a physical therapist. Some of you may understand how depressing an injury can be to your daily life, so I later stepped away from Houston ballet to heal both physically and emotionally.
A CALLING TO THE HEALING ARTS
After this experience, I felt a calling to the healing arts and decided to enroll in the Cortiva Institute of massage therapy in Chicago Illinois (where I’m originally from). I have been a licensed massage therapist for the past 10 years and thankfully, I was able to return to my Ballet career with City Ballet of San Diego for my 7th season this September. Massage therapy gave me my life back, and I feel privileged to get to share my knowledge and experiences in hopes of encouraging people to find refuge from their ailments in a healthy and natural way.
*Please note: for serious illness or injury it is important to seek medical attention before considering massage. It is crucial for both the client and therapist to have some sort of diagnosis to move forward appropriately.
WHAT IS MASSAGE THERAPY?
Massage Therapy is the manual manipulation of soft body tissues (muscle, connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments) to enhance a persons health and well-being. I find that many people seek out massage therapy initially for pain management (as did I), so let’s start there.
MANY BENEFITS OF MASSAGE
- Reduces muscle spasms, tightness and tender points due to muscle soreness, physical exertion, injury, accidents, fibromyalgia, autoimmune diseases affecting chronic muscle pain, injury compensation patterns etc.
- Decreases pain and stiffness and arthritis patients by increasing the production of synovial fluid which lubricate the joints
- Increases joint flexibility and body mobility
- Promotes tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue due to injury or surgical recovery
- Reduces swelling
- Releases endorphins, which are amino acids that reduce pain, also linked to feelings of happiness and decreased stress levels
- Gently realigns postural problems caused by muscles pulling the bones out of place.
- Relief from migraines
In this day and age, who isn’t stressed? Stress can be far more detrimental to a persons health than one might think. High levels of stress can contribute to a plethora of health problems. Here’s how Massage there he can help:
- brings the body out of sympathetic nervous system and into parasympathetic nervous system, decreasing cortisol levels for an overall healthier you. Sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight response triggered by stressful situations or frame of mind.
- Decreases anxiety and depression by releasing endorphins and “happy” neurotransmitters, decreasing pain, and calming the sympathetic nervous system giving your adrenal glands a much needed break.
- Improves quality of sleep and decreases insomnia by regulating stress hormones
- Improves digestion and weight gain/ loss related to stress
- Releases oxytocin, the comforting neurotransmitter that is released when you get a giant hug or have a good snuggle etc. human contact is important, and does not have to be received in a sexual way.
Increases function of the circulatory system:
- Increases circulation, pumping oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs
- Lowers blood pressure- High blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. While there are many factors contributing to high blood pressure, pain and stress play huge factors and can’t be combated with Massage therapy
- Flushes out lactic acid buildup in muscle tissue
- Promotes sinus drainage
- Loosens mucus in the lungs
- Boosts immune system by increasing lymph flow- bodily fluid packed with cells trained to fight infection and disease
With increased circulation, and lymph flow massage can help clear your body of the normal byproducts of muscle metabolism that can help reduce fatigue, increase Stamina, and accelerate healing of muscle tears.
REASONS TO AVOID MASSAGE
Most people can benefit from Massage with the right modality and practitioner. However, people with the following conditions should avoid massage:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Severe osteoporosis
- Bleeding disorders, or someone taking blood thinners
- Burns or healing wounds
- Severe thrombocytopenia
FINDING THE RIGHT MASSAGE THERAPIST
There are different modalities and therapists for different needs. When searching for a massage therapist it is important to take into consideration your specific needs are and what their specialty is. For example, if you are pregnant, make sure your therapist has received education on prenatal massage. Think about it, if you needed hand surgery, wouldn’t you find the best Orthopedic surgeon that specializes in hands? I know I would! I encourage you to interview and ask questions regarding your health and goals before receiving bodywork. I also believe that it’s very important to find a therapist who is passionate about what they do! When somebody really loves what they do and genuinely care about helping someone, it makes all the difference and you can feel it!
MASSAGE SHOULDN’T BE PAINFUL
I also encourage clients to speak up during a massage. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right for you. Sometimes there can be a level of discomfort but massage shouldn’t hurt! If the pressure is getting to an 8 out of 10, we need to back off because we don’t want your brain to think you are in danger and to start sending inflammatory signals to the sensitive area. A common misconception is that if it hurts very badly, you must really need it. However, that is not the case! That type of thinking does the body more harm than good. There is always another way to achieve the same goal without causing unnecessary pain and stress response!
BE PROACTIVE NOT REACTIVE
We’ve all been on a plane and heard the instructions to put on your oxygen mask before assisting others. While that is something we’ve all heard, it’s a concept many don’t follow. It is not selfish of you to take care of yourself. It is necessary so that we may serve others. Massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, exercise etc. are not luxuries. They are vital to your health and well-being both physically and emotionally. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to be proactive about self-care. Be proactive, not reactive.
Massage and bodywork have changed my life for the better in more ways than I could have ever imagined. It is truly a privilege to be a part of this field and I am honored that Brie OCD allowed me to share this small piece with you.
“Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person.”