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Massage Pain Away - How does Massage help to relax you?

Updated: Jul 3

Massage helps to relax you by working on your body's neurological system (the nervous system), you may have heard the terms 'fight-or-flight' and 'rest-and-digest'. These terms are explaining what is happening when your body is triggered by the autonomic nervous system, responsible for regulating your body's unconscious actions.

The parasympathetic system (rest and digest) is activated when you are being massaged by sending messages through the nerves and sensory receptors in your skin along nerve pathways in your body via your spinal cord to your brain. When this happens your parasympathetic system begins to slow down your body's activity, reducing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and increasing your rate of digestion, which explains why you often get a rumbly tummy when you are having your massage!

Sometimes you may find yourself in 'fight-or-flight' mode, where the sympathetic part of your autonomic system has been triggered. This can happen through any everyday stressful situation where you might perceive a threat or danger, when this happens your heart rate will speed up to deliver more blood to the areas that need more oxygen giving you a burst of energy and preparing your body for action so you can fight or fly.

Most of the time these days the everyday stresses that set off your sympathetic nervous system don't actually need such a strong response and you can end up being chronically activated resulting in high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, poor sleep and weight gain. You can help keep the balance between these two responses by taking time every day to activate the parasympathetic system.

Free and Easy ways to reduce everyday stress and activate your 'rest and digest' mode!

  • Practicing meditation for just 15 minutes a day will help deactivate your sympathetic nervous system and activate your parasympathetic system. Meditation can done simply by sitting in a comfortable chair, breathing in and out and counting each breath, when you have counted to 10 begin counting again, this will help to stop your mind wandering, just focus on your breath coming and going out and counting the breath. You can set a timer for 15 minutes.... You will probably find you want to do it again, this can be a deeply relaxing practice.

  • Taking a 20 minute walk will have a positive effect on your nervous system by releasing endorphins. If you can get out in nature, even better!

  • Self-massage, you can use special massage oils or use grapeseed oil from your local supermarket, you might not be able to reach your back, but you can really help to relieve tension and stress in your face, head, neck, arms, legs and torso through self-massage, and the beauty is, you will use the perfect pressure for you as you know what feels nice and what doesn't. If we hurt ourselves the first thing we do is rub the area to help relieve the pain and that is massage! You can rub, squeeze and smooth your skin and muscles and use this as part of your self-care routine, each time, you will be activating the parasympathetic system and your body and mind will thank you for it.

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