Massage Therapy for Stress Relief

Like many brides, you have been dreaming of your wedding since you were a child–the place, the dress, the flowers, and all the other important details. You never dreamed of the stress wedding planning could cause, even if it is a happy time in your life. It can be overwhelming and exhausting (and not just for the happy couple!) It seems as if you have ‘morphed’ into a different person– “Bridezilla, is that you?” All joking aside, you are not alone. Stress upsets one’s personal balance, and each individual handles it differently. Symptoms may be cognitive (such as inability to concentrate or think clearly), emotional (moodiness, agitation, irritability), physical (headaches or backaches, insomnia, skin breakouts, frequent colds), or behavioral (eating changes, teeth grinding, overreacting to unexpected problems, procrastinating). So how do you alleviate these symptoms of stress, you might ask? You can counteract the effects of stress by evoking the relaxation response, which will bring your body systems back into balance, reducing stress hormones, slowing down your muscles and organs, and increasing blood flow to the brain. Massage therapy is a very nurturing and healing way of inducing the relaxation response.

Massage is “a manual soft tissue manipulation that includes holding, causing movement, and/or applying pressure to the body”. Specific techniques are utilized where therapists use their sense of touch to determine the appropriate pressure and locate areas of tension and other soft tissue problems. The massage commonly given for the purpose of relaxation is the Swedish massage. The basic massage strokes include effleurage, petrissage, friction, and tapotement, and they may employ gentle or deeper pressure. Strokes that use gentle pressure affect the nervous system through nerve endings in the skin. The nervous system stimulates release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain-killers). Gentler strokes also induce a state of relaxation and create a sense of well-being, while relieving pain and reducing levels of stress hormones. They also help reduce the damaging effects of stress by slowing the heart rate, respirations, and metabolism and reducing blood pressure. The stronger massage strokes stimulate circulation to improve the supply of oxygen and nutrients to an area. They help the lymphatic system flush away waste products. Deeper strokes also help to ease tense, knotted muscles, and loosen stiff joints which can improve an individual’s mobility and flexibility. Some other positive benefits include improved concentration, reduced anxiety, and better sleep.

Therapeutic massage can be used in a number of ways in the days and months leading up to the wedding. With today’s stressful lifestyle, a bridal shower that gives the bride the comforts to make her feel pampered, relaxed, and less of a ‘Bridezilla’ can make for a good time. It is a wonderful way for couples to say “thank you” to those who helped in the planning process or a nice way for a bride to get members of her wedding party together. The best reason for getting massaged prior to the big day is because massage will make anyone (most importantly the bride) feel more radiant, calm, and centered. It is a wonderful way to relax, heal, and help release tensions created by prenuptial stressors. Nothing brings out one’s inner beauty more than feeling relaxed and refreshed!

Abigail Sweeney, CT/NY Licensed Massage Therapist