Massage Monday! Post 2: What Does a Massage Feel Like?

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a great week. Did you get enough sleep? Are you drinking enough water? How do your muscles feel? Are you eating enough of the foods you need to eat? How are your stress levels? Take a few moments and breathe with me as you read this. While you’re inhaling through your nose (1-2-3-4) and exhaling through your mouth (4-3-2-1) think about the feeling of serenity. That has a different meaning for everyone. What is your “serenity?” Keep breathing, you’re doing great. In your serenity are there any conflicts? Do you feel your healthiest? Are you rested or in a complete state of relaxation? Are you happy? Take your time thinking about it. And when you finish, take a couple more deep breaths before continuing on.

During and after a massage your body simulates “serenity.” Just 15 minutes of massage has the ability to affect the nervous system in many positive ways. Your nervous system is your brain, spinal cord, and all the little nerve endings. It works hand in hand with your endocrine system to produce hormones that bring the body to balance (homeostasis). Massage stimulates the production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, and reduces the levels of cortisol in the body. Dopamine is the “happy” hormone which influences mood. Experiencing joy and enthusiasm can be attributed to this hormone. Low levels of dopamine can result in lack of focus, clumsiness, and lack of motor control. Serotonin is the hormone that regulates emotions and has a calming effect. A lack of serotonin can lead to eating disorders, sleep issues, and digestion issues. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain receptors and help the body maintain a sense of wellbeing. Cortisol is the “stress” hormone. It triggers the fight or flight reaction in the body. It can be attributed to anxiety, depression, and issues with sleep.

Massage stimulates the hormones in the body that bring a wonderful balance – calming, relaxing, reducing pain. If you had reduced levels of these in the first place, massage will help your body produce them. If you have adequate levels of them, massage will help maintain them. Let’s break this down some more. All the hormones swirling inside you – the ones that encourage your body to remain in a calm state – lead to even more wonderful effects of massage. Go back to your serenity, to the calm and relaxed state. With the production of these hormones your heart rate falls into a slower, steady cadence which lowers your blood pressure. Hormones that cause a calming feeling (remember serotonin is the mood stabilizer) also aid in better sleep. I can’t promise you that massage will ensure you fall asleep easily or that you stay asleep all night without waking up immediately, but, I can assure you that it stimulates the production of hormones that can help with that. And just think…if you’re pregnant what you feel, your baby also feels. Two happy people from one massage.

Let’s move on to how your muscles feel after a massage. One client told me “Jello” was how they felt. I’ve had another tell me that their muscles were spaghetti and a massage helped straighten them out. I’ve also had someone tell me they felt “melted” after a massage. Massage addresses each muscle as you’re worked on and stretches it with long, gliding strokes (in the case of Swedish massage). Unless you have a very thorough exercise routine and you take full advantage of that stretching period before and after your workouts, you probably have some muscles that could use some TLC. Just for an example, take your open hand and put it right at the bend in your thigh as you’re sitting – the heel of your hand should be up against your hip bone and your hand should be palm down on your thigh, making a “C” shape. Now with as much or as little pressure as you like, push your hand down your thigh. How did that feel? Let’s try something else: find your collar bone, slide your fingers straight back until you hit muscle. That’s your trap. This muscle carries the majority of the stress in the majority of the population. With your thumb and pointer finger gently pinch this muscle and pull it towards you. How does that feel? Now, imagine that all of your muscles could get that type of attention. That’s what a massage feels like to me.  

In short, massage feels like serenity and you can take the lasting positive effects with you. The more often you receive massage, the more frequently you can enjoy the benefits of it. There are many, many types of massage and many other benefits. But, those, we’ll save for another day. As always, I want to hear from you! What questions do you have for me? Please either leave a comment below or email me at admin@theplaygroundva.com with the subject line of “Massage Monday.”

Have an awesome week and I’ll talk to you next Monday!

Massage tip of the day: Hydrate! Water those muscles, especially as the weather gets warmer. Your body is 60% water and your muscles need to drink, drink, drink. A dehydrated body is going to cramp, causing you lots of pain and can lead to very serious health concerns. Always keep a hydration source close to you.

-Hannah, Certified Massage Therapist at The PlayGround