Massaging the Mind
Therapeutic massage in north Shropshire
What does massage have to do with the mind? Isn’t it a physical therapy? In one sense, yes, of course, massage does work with the body. But the mind and body aren’t separate, they are part of one whole and what happens in one affects the other.
The way I see this most commonly in my massage practice is how mental stress shows up in the body. One example was a client who came to see me for therapeutic massage in north Shropshire in some distress because she had physical pain in her right shoulder. She had previously had an injury there, many years ago, and was worried she had done something to harm it again. She was having to take painkillers to sleep.
Before the session, I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to do in one hour and thought that this would take some time to resolve. However, as it went on, I could see how tightly she was holding herself. She relaxed during the session and by the end felt better. That night she didn’t have to take the painkillers and by morning the pain was gone.
I find it fascinating that the mind is so powerful it can create physical pain for us in this way. It references past experiences to try and protect us for the future. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself, it is the mind doing its best, but in this case it’s not helpful. This can also happen if there has been an injury, and the body remains tight, long after the acute phase has passed. The mind needs reminding that it is now safe to let go.
The therapeutic massage in north Shropshire I do works with the nervous system, the workings of which greatly affect our state of mind as it regulates our hormonal system and brain chemistry.
One client is always stunned by the end of the therapeutic massage in north Shropshire and is not quite sure what’s happened. This is a common side effect. There are many different states we can be in. Many of us spend most of our time in the conscious mind, buzzing around, doing our daily activities, and if we are very busy, this can tip over into the nervous system running the stress response: increased levels of adrenaline and higher blood pressure. When the mind is shown another state to be in through receiving a massage, it can come as a bit of a shock to the system, albeit one that feels great. It can feel confused, and while this is disorientating, it’s a good sign. It means that the mind has relaxed its grip enough for us to let go and relax. Another client felt like not much had happened during his first session, but in the days following, he felt much better and in less pain. This happens a lot and it’s because once the nervous system has got into a particular groove, particularly if it is stuck in the stress response, it takes time for it to unwind.
Massage is also a way to meet fearful and anxious thoughts and feelings. These may arise because of a particular life event, or it may just be part of the process of living. Being overwhelmed with anxiety can lead us to making unhealthy choices, and therapeutic massage is one way to help us not get lost in those coping mechanisms.
Touch that we perceive as safe, appropriate and nurturing has a profound impact. Through the sense receptors in our skin, the message is sent to the brain that it is safe, and we are cared for. If the brain has been running the stress response, it now knows it is okay to let this go and go into the rest and repair state, such as we experience when we sleep. This releases mood boosting neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. These help to combat anxious thoughts and to allow us to feel that everything is okay again. And if there are problems that need creative solutions, we are much more likely to be able to come up with them once we are well rested not stuck in a stressed mental loop. Even on a lifestyle level, giving yourself an hour in a week or a month that is entirely for you, that is your space, means you build a capacity in your life and within yourself to experience and allow difficult thoughts and feelings without becoming lost in them.
As the body relaxes, so does the mind. As the mind relaxes its grip on the body, it can rest, repair and be ready to face new challenges.