It’s March, 2023. We’re living in a post-pandemic world. A massive number of people are
battling new and worsening symptoms of chronic health conditions such as insomnia and adrenal fatigue aka burnout. These symptoms have emerged in large part due to heightened levels of stress, overproduction of cortisol, and a resulting ever-engaged fight, flight, or freeze response. Thankfully, the manual therapy of massage and bodywork offers us an abundance of benefits to help manage the cortisol spikes and bring our bodies closer to balance. Bodywork has been used to support lifelong health for thousands of years in cultures everywhere. Its uses are vast and depthful. We will cover several ways that chronic health condition symptoms can be tempered with regular bodywork sessions.
First, let’s define these terms:
Immune System - Chronic health conditions are often linked to a suppression of the Immune System. This can have many causes such as genetics, diet, lifestyle, and environment. Massage benefits the immune system by ensuring proper lymphatic fluid flow, increasing the production of leukocytes and the encouraging proper removal of waste and toxins from our bodies on a cellular level. Those who are afflicted with symptoms of Lymphedema, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Long COVID will benefit.
Inflammation Response - It’s been said that the root cause of all disease is inflammation. What is inflammation? Why is it bad? Well, it’s not inherently. Inflammation is a natural and healthy reaction that our bodies create due to stress or injury. This is a healthy response in the short-term (like having a fever for a few days) or when localized (like when a rolled ankle swells to protect itself). But with chronic health conditions, the inflammation has outstayed its welcome and has become a systemic issue. Massage is famous for its pain-reduction and
anti-inflammatory effects when utilized regularly. Those who have struggles to manage arthritis and migraines, for example, will experience relief from regular bodywork.
Blood, Lymph, and Qi circulation - Because massage ensures increased flow of our bodies’ fluids and energies, it also ensures that proper nutrients are delivered through our tissues. When our tissues function properly, our organs and organ systems are set up for success. Those managing COPD, Diabetes, and Kidney Disease are all good candidates for regular bodywork treatment.
Nervous System - When the body is in fight, flight, or freeze response as is often the case with chronic health conditions, we begin to see symptoms like fatigue, restless sleep, and mood disorders. Massage restores Nervous System health by engaging the Vagus nerve which activates the rest and digest response, also known as the parasympathetic nervous system. Being in this state of calm is critical to managing symptoms of Anxiety and Depression, two chronic health conditions that will deeply benefit from regular time receiving mindful bodywork.
Digestive System - When chronic inflammation is present, gut dysfunction such as decreased nutrient absorption and improper toxin elimination may be present. Here, we see conditions such as IBS and Crohn's Disease. Because our gut-brain connection is so strong, what affects one, affects the other. Regular bodywork is known to regulate neurotransmitter health by increasing the release of dopamine and serotonin while lowering the output of cortisol and norepinephrine when appropriate. Regular massage will benefit anyone looking to enhance their gut health.
When you’re managing a chronic health condition, it will likely take a variety of techniques, modalities, therapies, and a team of support and health personnel to discover the ever-changing personal blend of symptom-management regimen that works best for you. Be encouraged by knowing that massage and bodywork are two of the many effective natural solutions offered by Alternative Medicine.