There are two aspects to the body’s central nervous system: the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic systems. The Sympathetic system is what we often call “Fight or Flight”. We find ourselves in a stressful situation and immediately our bodies start pumping adrenaline. This has a cascade of effects in the body but basically when we are adrenalized then energy and blood flow withdraw from the digestive and reproductive organs and head to the muscles ready to fight or flee. It’s a useful – life-saving- mechanism (when running from traffic wardens or tax inspectors!) but when we are in this state all the time it has disastrous effects on our health.
The Parasympathetic nervous system is our Maintenance and repair mode, so you can see how prolonged stress would have a very damaging effect on health. It seriously affects our digestion and the maintenance of all our vital organs and functions. Over time this can lead to chronic disease states. Being under stress for prolonged periods can lead to weight loss as we lose our appetite altogether but can just as easily lead to weight gain as we comfort eat or develop Insulin resistance in our bodies. And Insulin resistance is the pathway to many more serious diseases.
Our muscles shorten and harden. The muscle fibres themselves can dry out and adhere to each other creating a stringy or lumpy feel. The waste products from the use of the muscles themselves (like lactic acid) are no longer taken away from the muscles but deposited as crystals in the fibres – over time leading to fibrotic states and a lot of stiffness, lack of flexibility and loss of mobility. If you are in a tense state you are actually much more likely to injure yourself as well or pull a muscle.
Stress can lead to feelings of overwhelm or anger. You may feel the kind of fatigue that sleep doesn’t seem to help. You can’t concentrate or plan. You might feel apathetic or withdrawn.
However, massage, particularly regular massage can really help with all stress-related symptoms. The first thing a good massage does is put you back in touch with yourself. Clients often say that they had no idea the state they were in, or they talk about “dropping down a few floors” after a massage as if they were in an elevator. Massage calms the central nervous system – in fact it activates your parasympathetic nervous system so that your body can go into that repair and maintenance mode. It can help straighten out your body, releasing stiff joints, reducing pain or your perception of pain and helping you walk tall again. It is much easier for your body to return to a healthy state if it knows what this feels like and experiences it on a regular basis.
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Post author – Adelia Tisdall