Massage reduces stress? Really?
OK, to some people that might seem pretty obvious… but I think that this is an area that’s worth delving into a little bit deeper, and especially the Chinese approach to dealing with stress using massage and acupressure in combination.
It’s a very potent treatment that goes way beyond just ‘a relaxing massage’, and helps to reset your system.
Stress In Chinese Medicine
‘Stress’ is a pretty broad term, and can mean different things to different people.
In Chinese medicine terms, we can talk about stress being linked to stagnation of Qi. When your Qi flows easily and smoothly your life feels relaxed, open, easy, and free. If you don’t feel this way, it shows a certain level of Qi stagnation.
This is very common in modern society. When you repress or hold in your emotions or experience frustration, or any time that you are inactive for long periods your Qi starts to stagnate, and stress builds.
When your system overheats (particularly in the case of what Chinese medicine calls ‘Yin Deficiency’) it can cause irritability, restlessness, and anxiety – a ‘tired but wired’ feeling.
And the Chinese medicine pattern called Blood Deficiency also comes with a low level of background anxiety and worry which we often call stress.
All of these imbalances can contribute to stress, and Chinese massage can help with them all!
Stress Reducing Massage And Acupressure
In Chinese massage, the therapist works with the muscles in the same way any masseur would, but also works with the Qi by considering and manipulating the meridians / channels and the acupoints. Imagine a massage plus acupressure and you have an idea.
This is a super-powerful way of working. By working on tense muscles and knots, the body relaxes, and when the body relaxes the mind relaxes and the Qi flows.
And by working on specific channels and acupoints, the flow of qi is regulated and balanced. There are many points on the body that have a calming, grounding or stress-reducing quality, and the best ones are chosen for you depending on your exact symptoms and state of health at the time.
Research On Massage And Acupressure For Stress
There have been a large number of studies looking at the stress-reducing effects of massage and acupressure on different groups of people, in different settings and circumstances. Here are just a few:
Researchers in Austria have shown that manual acupressure at a point on the ear (the auricular Heart point) has an effect on the function of the heart and nervous system. The results showed a significant decrease in heart rate and a significant increase in heart rate variability (or ‘HRV’) which is a measure of how well balanced your nervous system is, and reflects over-all levels of good health.
An Italian study looked at whether acupressure at the point Shenmen (Ht7) could help to treat insomnia. 25 patients affected by sleep disorders were enrolled, of whom 14 had cancer. An improvement in sleep quality was seen in 60% of patients, with a more evident efficacy in cancer patients (79%). (Minerva Med. 2008 Dec).
In a study published in AORN (June 2103) patients about to undergo surgery received a 10-minute hand massage. Compared with a control group who received normal care the massage group experienced significantly less preoperative anxiety compared to patients who did not receive hand massage.
So regardless of your current state of health, acupressure and massage can have a powerful stress-reducing effect, and especially when they are combined, as they are in the Chinese massage system
Types Of Chinese Massage For Stress Reduction
In my Bristol practice I work with acupressure and massage in 2 ways.
Traditional Tui Na is the ancient Chinese bodywork system – it works with the physical body and with the Qi, and can be deep and strong, or light and gentle, or somewhere between. With Tui Na you keep your clothes on, and I work through the material.
Meridian Massage is essentially tui na with oil. It too works with the Qi and incorporates acupressure, but for this massage I work on the skin, with massage oil. It has a more flowing feel, and suits people who prefer an oil-based massage.
Both have a profound stress-busting effect!
For more info, or to book a session, feel free to drop me line