Roots of Touch
Your body, your experience.


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Thursday, February 6, 2014


What actually happens to the body and brain when we get massaged?  There is much more research to be done, but so far it’s known that the parasympathetic nervous system gets activated as well as an increase the oxytocin hormone.

What does this mean?  One example - A study from the Research Institute at the University of Miami compared 2 groups of patients with high blood pressure.  One group received massage therapy, the other group followed progressive muscle relaxation instructions.  Both groups had a decrease in anxiety.  However, those who received massage therapy had lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels, less depression and hostility, hence lowered (diastolic) blood pressure.

Studies continue to reflect how massage therapy engages the parasympathetic nervous system.  The increase in the feel good hormones – dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and a decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) help people to feel happier and less anxious, depressed, aggressive, and hostile.  With the parasympathetic nervous system engaged, the functions of “rest and digest” are able to operate and the body is in a more relaxed state of being.  The mental health studies highlighted showed massage therapy helps anorexia, bulimia, hypertension, anxiety, depression, drug addiction, job stress, aggression, and post traumatic stress.

The studies about oxytocin show how it is increased through touch.  Oxytocin helps to bond with others, promoting trust, participation, reciprocity, and a desire to work through conflict.  Relationships are a cornerstone to happiness, and are especially satisfying when they have those elements related to oxytocin.  It seems that experiencing touch with loved ones has the most impact, especially when positive emotional affect is present.

Start increasing your feel good experience by reaching out and touching someone – a high five, a gentle touch on the arm, a caress, an embrace.  Get a massage and you may notice that “rest and digest” functioning – a gurgle in your stomach, dosing off, deeper breathing happens as the session goes on.  All from touch! 

Create space to let touch and massage be part of your daily lifestyle.  The return on investment is worth it!



Do you notice what physical, mental and emotional patterns exist for you today?  What are your first thoughts upon waking and how do they translate into feelings and actions?  How is your posture through out the day?    

Being present and noticing what’s going on in our body and mind creates awareness and opportunity to stay in balance, prevent injury, and treat chronic tension and pain.  Awareness keeps us on the lookout and gives us the ability to take action and change our game. 

Repetitive stress injury, poor posture, inflammation, adhesions (when tissues that should move easily, stick together), and tight fascia (dense connective tissue that permeates our body) can all cause a decrease in range of motion, tightness, and pain, setting us up for further injury and tissue damage.  Trigger points (segments of muscle fibers stuck in chronic contraction are nodules felt in a tight muscle band and tender to the touch) reduces the amount of muscle fibers available to contract, causing pain and weakness. 

Shallow breathing is an unfortunate pattern.  Often tension and anxiety, when held in the abdomen, interferes with proper breathing and digestion.  This makes the scalene muscles of the neck and 1st/2nd rib work harder to lift the rib cage for the lungs to expand, thus contributing to a tight or sore neck.  Shallow breathing can make for shallow living, so breathe fully, with your belly!  Practice engaging your diaphragm by pushing your belly out with the inhale and fully exhale by contracting your belly. 

Establish upright posture:  Drop your shoulders, retract them, pull the neck/head back and tuck the chin.  When we have our head leaning forward, gravity adds extra weight, straining our neck muscles.  Make sure to support the natural curve of the low back by sitting up on your “sits bones,” (the boney part of your butt).  Chronically crossing your legs can lead to varicose veins and hip/low back imbalances and pain.

Did you know our spinal muscles fatigue within 20 minutes of sitting?  The amount of time we can uphold good posture depends on our endurance.  To feel better, strengthen your core muscles and schedule breaks every 20 minutes to stretch and move around. 

Take note and feel your body as an “inside” experience - what emotions and thoughts might be connected to posture and patterns.  Feel the “outside” experience by using your hands to touch your musculature and see if you can feel your tension areas.  Consciously make changes to create more balance.

Massage therapy addresses the health of our tissues (scar tissue, adhesions, trigger points, tightness) and lowers cortisol, the stress hormone.  Touch is powerful – it creates awareness and gets us present in our bodies.  Often people don’t realize they are sore somewhere until they are touched.  A simple hand on the shoulder can illicit a deep sigh of relief – a returning home to within.  Often our bodies are crying out for our attention and we don’t stop until we get sick or injured.  Make a practice of getting in touch.  You’re inner world awaits your attention.

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
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