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Fitness Buzz – Don’t Let it Rib You the Wrong Way

Posted Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 at 6:20 am by David T in Healthy Bees. More in 10031

This article is from David Tacheny, founder of Performance Athletics, which is located on the Upper West Side.

When you’re stressed beyond the limit and you’re so tense you feel like your head is being pulled down into your thorax by a 10 ton truck winch, what do you do?  Me, I immediately call one of two friends who are Licensed Massage Therapists and beg them to trade me for a personal training session.

But when that stress hangs around and morphs into full-blown anxiety, massage may not be the most effective (or cost effective) solution, according to a study recently published in the journal of Depression and Anxiety.  The study compared massage to thermotherapy (heat therapy) and use of deep breathing techniques, while laying still on one’s back.  After undergoing a 10 week course of one of the three treatments, subjects reported almost identical results. This didn’t jive with researchers’ hypothesized results , that massage would score much higher on the anxiety-reduction scale.

Does this surprise me, sure, a bit.   Am I giving up my weekly massage, not on your life!  Here’s what makes massage and body work worth it to me, despite the often higher price.  A good massage can be a pampering experience that just feels good, but it can also be more intense. When the focus of the body work is to “straighten me out,” or break up “knots,” the result is not only a reduction in the physical contributors to my stress (tight muscles, restricted blood flow, etc), and symptoms of anxiety, but, hopefully, a renewed focus on myself and the steps I must take to relax and heal.

Some points to consider, according to Kim Cook, a New York based Licensed Massage Therapist and Structural Integrationist:

1) In some cases, massage may actually cause more anxiety.   ‘ The power relatioship during a massage can feel very one-sided.’  If the anxiety has been caused by physical touch, a particularly intense struggle with a power figure, or stems from a feeling of physical or emotional inadequacy, the simple process of being disrobed, in front of a stranger, with their hands touching you, sometimes causing discomfort, might be too much for some with anxiety to handle.  Cook suggests that in cases like this, the client may feel more comfortable with more energy based modalities, such as Reiki or Craniosacral Therapy.

2) ‘ This study seems to have failed to take into account the power of touch.’  There’s a conversation, of sorts, that goes on between a body and a therapist and that conversation can be an important aspect of the healing process.  In his book ” Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin” Ashley Montagu states, ” The language of the senses… are capable of enlarging our appreciation of and deepening our understanding of each other… Chief among these languages is touching.  The communications we transmit through touch constitute the most powerful means of establishing human relationships…”

So, if you like massage, and you feel it legitimately benefits you, don’t let this study rub you the wrong way.  Massage is a very personal thing, and a solid relationship between therapist and client can yield many benefits, not least of which, is having someone who knows your body well, to help you stay healthy, as well as stress and anxiety free

For more information on Kim Cook,  LMT, KMI, contact her directly

To find an experienced, licensed massage therapist where ever you live, try or

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