The Emotional Benefits of Bodywork

Bodywork and massage are great treatments for emotional health as well as pain and tension. Regular sessions have been shown to improve mood after as little as 15 min, and can help treat stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma.

The emotional benefits of massage and bodywork begin with relaxation, a sense of peace, and self-awareness. From the first moments you lay on the therapy table, your body begins to cue your nervous system that you are now warm and safe and can begin to relax. Your heartbeat slows, your breathing deepens, and your stress hormone levels begin to drop. Your treatment continues to deepen this relaxation response and bring your awareness inward to your body.

Receiving regular bodywork and massage allows the treatments to build on each other, so that sometimes just walking into the treatment room can begin the cascade of positive emotions and biological responses. Regular treatments are especially effective for depression and anxiety, as they release endorphins like serotonin and dopamine and reduce stress hormone levels, which helps to improve and regulate mood.

Bodywork can also help release emotional trauma that has been stored in the body as tension or dysfunction. It becomes a great complement to other therapies, supporting the work of psychotherapy, mindfulness, and other treatments that work to heal emotional trauma and support an overall sense of well-being.

Our bodies and minds are inherently connected to each other, which allows bodywork and massage to provide effective support for emotional health. The healing power of touch combines with the safety and warmth of a quality therapist to create space for emotional release, mood regulation, and an improved sense of wellness.  

Treatments for Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a painful and sometimes severe condition where nerve damage causes pain, tingling, and numbness from affected sensory nerves, and lack of coordination or control in motor nerves. It can be caused by cancer treatment medications, high blood sugar levels, and other conditions, and is most common in the feet and legs. Effective treatment calms the nerves and restores blood and oxygen flow so that the damage can heal.

Acupuncture is one of the most effective treatments for neuropathy, with an over 75% success rate after a course of 4 or 5 weekly treatments. Most people maintain their improvements unless the condition is caused by medication they are still taking. The treatments work to improve nerve conduction and reduce the stagnation of energy in the limbs, restoring balance to the flow of the body.

Bodywork and massage treat neuropathy by focusing on restoring blood circulation to the small vessels that provide oxygen to the nerves in the feet and hands. Without enough oxygen, the nerves malfunction and send signals of pain, tingling, burning, and numbness. Treatments need to be at least 60 min once/week and focus on working as deeply as is comfortable, with the goal of eventually flushing all the stagnant blood out of the tissue. It is also important to do at least 15 min a day of self-massage and range of motion exercises at home to support the detailed work of the treatments and continue to make progress.

Therapeutic movement classes, like yoga and tai chi, strengthen the communication between nerves and brain and also help treat neuropathy. Opening up the front of the body increases oxygenation and improves blood circulation, helping to nourish the affected nerves. Classes also are generally calming to the nervous system, which helps ease the pain symptoms. Regular classes, especially when taken along with other treatments, help keep the pain from getting worse and support the healing process.

Neuropathy is an often painful condition that can be treated, and acupuncture, bodywork and massage, and movement classes like yoga and tai chi all help reduce pain, increase circulation, and support healing for damaged nerves. Because nerve pain is often due to a lack of oxygen, increasing blood flow can go a long way toward easing symptoms and creating health.

Diabetes Support

Diabetes is a stressful and common condition that requires constant management. It puts tremendous strain on the physical body, and elevates mental and emotional stress levels. Creating health and support for diabetes means treating the body systems that are under strain and reducing overall stress levels so that you can switch the nervous system out of fight or flight mode and into rest and repair mode.

Bodywork and massage increases the circulation of blood and lymph, which brings oxygen and nutrients to tissues and boosts insulin uptake. It also calms the nervous system, helping to turn off the alarms, and is effective at treating the stiffness and mobility issues caused by high blood sugar levels.

Mindfulness practice helps to both lower blood sugar levels and to better self-manage diabetes. In one study, 16 weeks of practice improved mood, lowered stress, addressed sleep issues, and decreased fasting blood sugar levels.

Therapeutic Movement classes like yoga provide the physical activity needed to increase circulation, especially to the arms and legs, where people with diabetes most have issues. Regular physical activity also helps the body improve its response to insulin, and helps directly lower blood sugar levels by reducing stress hormones in the body.

Acupuncture is able to reduce the nerve pain and neuropathy that can come from diabetes. It also helps to lower blood sugar levels, and to regulate the urge to eat too much, drink too much, and pee too often. Overall, it helps to rebalance and support the many physical systems under strain from diabetes.

The constant management of diabetes means that you are in an ongoing conversation with your body about its health status on a daily basis. There are ways to have that conversation and to reduce the strain and stress of this condition through health care that also increases your overall sense of wellbeing and supports your whole self. All of these therapies, including bodywork, mindfulness, therapeutic movement classes, and acupuncture, work with the care of your doctor to improve health and quality of life.

Relief for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common source of joint pain, caused by wear on the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones of the joint. It can start at any age, and by age 60, most adults have some arthritis. The bones most often affected are in the hands, spine, knee, and hip joints. Bodywork and massage, movement classes like yoga, and mindfulness practice can all help with the pain, stiffness, swelling, and decreased range of motion of osteoarthritis.

Part of osteoarthritis is that collagenous tissue will settle in to create a patchwork of scars that creates a lot of stiffness, and bodywork is effective at helping to restore that lost range of motion. It also works to realign posture, which relieves strain on affected joints, and decreases swelling. Additionally, massage and bodywork reduces pain by directly impacting the nerves of the affected joints.

When it comes to movement classes, the general rule for students with osteoarthritis is: if it hurts, stop and do it a different way. The benefits of yoga and other therapeutic classes include increased mobility, balance, and range of motion, all of which help to reduce arthritis pain. Everything done in class can be modified to accommodate physical issues, so if any pose or motion is uncomfortable, let the teacher know so they show you another way.

Mindfulness techniques are also proven to help treat people with osteoarthritis. They retrain the brain away from focusing on pain and thereby magnifying it and making it worse. The effects of mindfulness practice are cumulative; the more often you do it, the more it helps.

Osteoarthritis may be a common cause of pain, stiffness, and discomfort, but it is possible to feel significantly better through treatment. Supporting your health through bodywork, therapeutic movement classes, and mindfulness can improve both your symptoms and your overall sense of wellbeing.

Treatments for Autoimmune Disorders

There are over 80 kinds of autoimmune disorders, where the body is either attacking itself and causing physical problems in the organ or system it is attacking, or where it is creating excessive amounts of inflammation. Treatment focuses mostly on symptom management, and bodywork, movement classes, and mindfulness are all effective at treating autoimmune symptoms.

Bodywork supports clients with autoimmune disorders by reducing levels of inflammation and irritation. It helps move the body out of fight or flight mode and into rest and restore mode, which supports nutrient flow and reduces stress on organ systems like the adrenals. It also releases muscle tension and aches, which in turn helps to ease strain on the spine and joints. Bodywork sessions are able to be uniquely customized for specific disorders to support affected tissues, treat secondary symptoms, and move lymph fluid.

Movement classes like yoga and qigong also help treat autoimmune disorders by helping to lower immune response and inflammation in the body. The physical activity of the class helps to quell inflammation and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body. The mental awareness and focus of the classes support a sense of calm and well being, which helps relax the accumulated mental stress of a chronic condition.

Finally, Mindfulness is also effective treatment for autoimmune disorders. It is a proven method for reducing pain and discomfort, as it is able to turn down the volume on pain signals from the body. In the case of autoimmune disorders, this shift then sends a “cooling” message to the body’s inflammatory response, helping it to subside and come back into balance.

Autoimmune disorders are often chronic conditions that impact daily life in difficult and painful ways. At HaLé, we see firsthand how treatment through bodywork, movement classes, and mindfulness is able to help reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and improve quality of life.

Bodywork and Massage for Pain Management

Bodywork and Massage therapy can effectively relieve pain, offering proven benefits and an excellent safety record with few, if any, side effects. Pain is the reason for about 80% of physician visits in the U.S., and the CDC now recommends that doctors start with non-pharmacological treatments to address this pain, instead of prescribing medications.

Last year, the journal Pain Medicine published a systematic review and meta-analysis of 60 high-quality and 7 low-quality studies on the effectiveness of massage for pain. This included muscle and bone pain, headaches, deep internal pain, fibromyalgia, and spinal cord pain. It concluded not only that massage therapy does help relieve pain, but that it offers the added benefits of improved anxiety and health-related quality of life.  

Sometimes one bodywork and massage session will bring significant improvement, and other times a problem created over years of repetitive stress takes several treatments before it significantly improves. This is why other studies have looked at massage dosage, or how long and how often massage should be received. A study on neck pain showed that a longer session (60 min vs. 30 min) is more effective for pain relief, and that coming more than once a week for the first 4 weeks is 5x more likely to improve function and 2x as likely to bring a significant drop in pain.

At HaLé, our bodywork and massage therapists are experienced at treating pain and know that it responds best to an integrative approach that allows for healing on many levels, including biomechanical, neurological, and psychological. We can help you manage and reduce your pain, and our treatments have the proven side effect of improving your overall sense of well-being.

Supportive Treatments for PTSD

PTSD is a stress-related disorder that can develop after a traumatic experience. It often includes symptoms of increased anxiety and hypervigilance, pain from muscle tension and headaches, and sleep issues, and it can make every day a struggle. Treatment with HaLé therapies can help empower the healing process and ease the distress.

HaLé Bodywork can provide pain relief, lower anxiety and stress, and improve mood and sleep quality, all of which are especially helpful for people with PTSD. Our sessions are also based on creating and strengthening a trust relationship with your massage therapist. This trust bond brings both physical and emotional comfort, which creates safety for increasing awareness of both physical and psychological distress. This combination of trust, comfort, and awareness creates room for healing.

Our classes also provide many of these same benefits. HaLé Yoga and our other offerings all increase mindful awareness of the body in the present moment, and help release stress and anxiety, reduce pain, and create a general sense of wellbeing. By linking the mind and body through the breath, the mind is able to calm, which can reduce the intensity of feelings and thoughts associated with PTSD symptoms.

By reducing physical and mental distress, the bodywork and classes we offer at HaLé can provide relief for PTSD symptoms. Through increased feelings of trust, safety, and awareness, the constant alarms of PTSD can be recalibrated, and we are happy to offer support through that process.

Treating Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a difficult and frustrating syndrome involving generalized chronic pain, fatigue, and mood and memory issues. Treatment focuses on managing these symptoms, and bodywork and massage are especially helpful for this. Developing a self-care relationship with your body through classes like Yoga for All Levels and MELT Method also helps bring long term relief.

Bodywork and massage treatments for fibromyalgia use integrative techniques to best address the sensitivity of a body dealing with fibro. Gentle stretches, rocking motions, and long strokes help release muscle tension, increase circulation, and bring deep relaxation. Because every body is unique, it is especially important to communicate with your therapist about your treatment, and to let them know if it ever feels too intense.

Multiple scientific studies have looked at the effectiveness of bodywork treatments for fibromyalgia, and the proven benefits include:

  • Higher serotonin levels
  • Decreased stress hormones
  • Improved sleep
  • Lower pain levels, especially at tender points
  • Improved overall sense of well-being

In addition to bodywork, developing a self-care relationship with your body can lay the foundations for long term relief of fibromyalgia symptoms. This is a process of learning to listen and be in relationship with your most physical self, and does not come easily to everyone. Regular practice is key, and self care classes like yoga and MELT method are very helpful in this process.

Fibromyalgia and related pain syndromes can make basic activities difficult. Treatment through bodywork and self-care can offer better sleep, less pain, and an overall sense of well-being. Regular massage sessions and classes have a cumulative effect, building on each other to make day to day living less painful and more enjoyable.

The Process of Healing

The body is a marvellous machine, able to repair and heal itself. This process of healing happens in stages, and understanding these phases can help ease the frustration and fear of dealing with an injury. There are three main steps of tissue healing: Inflammation, Repair, and Remodeling.

Inflammation: The body immediately begins healing a traumatic injury with inflammation. The injured tissues release chemical signals that dilate blood vessels to bring extra blood flow, white blood cells, and nutrients to help clean up and wall off the injured area. This also serves to limit the function of the injured area, to prevent additional tissue damage. The swelling and pain, as uncomfortable as they are, are a protective process. Bodywork can support this phase by working on associated structures while avoiding the injured tissues. It also will help shift the nervous system out of fight or flight mode into relaxation and repair mode through stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows more of the body’s resources to focus on the healing process.

Repair: Once the injured area is walled off and cleaned up, inflammation subsides and construction begins to replace or repair the injured tissue. Temporary blood vessels grow in order to supply the nutrients needed for healing, and special cells called fibroblasts begin producing a fragile form of scar tissue called granulation tissue to fill in the gaps left after the damaged structures were cleaned out by the body. This is when it is easiest to reinjure the tissues, as pain levels have gone down but the repairs are not yet strong enough for full use. Bodywork can begin to gently address the injured areas, being careful of the fragile granulation tissue, and can continue to work on associated structures to maintain function, minimize compensation, and increase circulation.

Remodeling: Once enough granulation tissue is produced, the construction of permanent tissue can begin, usually as strong scar tissue made from a dense network of collagen fibers. At first, the collagen fibers are arranged in all directions, and they adjust according to how the body moves as it heals. Some fibers are reinforced to provide more strength, as others are destroyed to provide more flexibility. This process is best done with a gradual return to functional activities, followed by time for the tissue to adapt. At this point, bodywork treatment can work much more directly on the affected area, focusing on breaking up scar tissue and increasing range of motion, even as it continues to address compensating movement patterns.

There is no specific time frame for each phase of healing, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of each part of the process in order to treat them effectively. Remodeling in particular can take months or even years, and supporting the body as it finds its best function as it heals can do a lot to help reduce chronic dysfunction and discomfort. Bodywork and self-care are effective ways to support this process, helping us stay in conversation with our bodies and respond to their needs.

On the Psychology of Muscle

Your muscles take on the shape that they are accustomed to being in for hours every day. Any one thing, any repetitive motion, will shape the muscle and shape the fascia that surrounds it. The body responds so that the form follows the function, or that the function will make the form. What we want, then, is for our bodies to assume variable positions and activities throughout the day and throughout our life.

Changing positions can be challenging, though. It takes more than stretching to release a muscle, and we can’t force ourselves into a position when our body isn’t ready. Muscle fibers require a neurological signal in the form of a chemical messenger in order to release, and even though that signal comes from the brain, we don’t necessarily decide if our brain will send that signal. We can’t just tell our hamstrings to be less tight. What needs to happen is that the brain needs to feel that it is safe enough for that muscle to release.

So don’t over-stretch yourself into being over-burdened and over-committed. Dive into a conversation with yourself, befriend yourself, and gain an understanding of what your end stretch is and how much you can take on. There are times when we can take on a whole lot, and life circumstances change and we can take on even more. But nothing is constant, everything ebbs and flows, and it is our responsibility to listen to that ebb and flow and know if we need to back off or engage. What you did last summer may be very different from what you can do this summer, but if we go in with hearts wide open we can find opportunity.

Stay buoyant and responsive to where you and your body are in the process of holding and changing positions. We can’t force these processes, but we can work with them by knowing the parts of ourselves.