Stress Management with Therapeutic Massage

Stress Management with Therapeutic Massage


Stress management improves your vitality and state of mind, and one method to prepare for a long, happy life is to include regular therapeutic massage in your priorities. You will feel, look and simply be healthier. Massage therapy is much more than just relaxation — it is a way to manage and reduce stress levels in the body.

Stress can be a positive motivator when striving for a promotion or completing an important task. Stress is the body’s way of responding to temporary situational demands such as being stuck in traffic or the holidays. However, when long-term stress is caused by ongoing situations like dealing with work or family issues, financial concerns, or coping with health issues, the body is in a constant heightened state of stress.

If that continues, it will have detrimental health effects including acute or chronic tensions in the body as well as impact bodily systems including the immune, cardiovascular, endocrine and neuromuscular systems. When the brain senses stress, the heart rate and blood pressure rise, and muscles tighten. Massage helps you to relax, calming the mind and body.

Adrenaline boosts your heart rate and cortisol boosts your blood sugar, while diverting energy away from the digestive and immune systems, which is exactly what humans need to fight or flee. However, when there’s not enough relief from stress, the sustained “fight-or-flight” response will cause constant stress to become “distress.” 

Distress can lead to symptoms including headaches, elevated blood pressure, upset stomach, problems sleeping and may cause or worsen certain symptoms or diseases. The body conserves energy by suppressing digestive and immune systems and circulation is increased to the heart, muscles and lungs. 

This reaction leads to decreased immune system activity, which increases the risk of colds, flus and immune system diseases and problems with digestion and elimination. Massage will promote normal circulation, improve immune system activity and play a role in restoring normal digestive system function.

A massage therapist uses techniques to help the body return to a relaxed state, which in turn reduces your stress-related aches and pains. Massage can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, relax your muscles and increase the production of endorphins, your body’s natural “feel good” chemical. Serotonin and dopamine are also released through massage and feelings of calm relaxation makes chronic or short-term stress easier to overcome. Add in the benefits of muscle tension release and pain reduction, and you discover massage therapy can be a treatment of choice in dealing with everyday stress.

Massage therapy includes different pressure and forms that range from light or medium to firm using Swedish, deep tissue, sports, reflexology, shiatsu or trigger point techniques. The use of hot stones or energy work, such as Reiki to release tension and promote relaxation, are additional therapies. Your treatment should be based on your preferences and needs.

Stress management is a benefit of massage therapy and key for anyone seeking a healthier lifestyle. Clinical studies show that a single 90-minute session can significantly lower your heart rate, cortisol levels and insulin levels — all of which explain why massage therapy and stress management go hand-in-hand.



James Glassford is the Lead Massage Therapist with Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa. He facilitates customized massage bringing more integration, harmony and balance in the body, mind, heart and spirit. He studied at the McKinnon Body Therapy Center in Oakland and is a CAMTC-certified massage therapist.