As more and more people are discovering, massage therapy and healing touch therapies are proving to be extremely good medicine for treating those with chronic diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, depression, and even circulatory disorders. There are several good reasons for this, such as the fact that massage therapy helps move lymph fluid around the body and oxygenate organs and tissues. Plus, there's probably something healthy going on in the fact that human touch is taking place. However, there is a widespread belief, especially among the leaders in Western medicine, that massage therapy can't possibly be considered a medical treatment. Most insurance companies still refuse to pay for massage therapies, and few doctors prescribe it, although the number of doctors recommending it has been increasing over the last few years. I believe that massage therapy is shunned by the medical community primarily because it is considered an unsophisticated treatment -- you don't need a medical degree to give someone an effective massage. There's not a lot of equipment involved in massage therapy, it doesn't have a lot of cool technology, and it doesn't require years of training. And thus, it is looked upon as something that is below Western medicine, both by doctors and by many patients.
But all of this is a distortion -- something doesn't have to be complicated or cool to be effective as a healing treatment. Massage therapy gets to the fundamentals -- that is, the power of human touch, and the spiritual healing potential of one person's hands touching another person's body along with positive healing intent. These are timeless principles of healing that don't require technology to be effective.
Given that massage therapy and therapeutic touch are so effective in helping patients heal themselves, I find it astounding to observe the lack of physical contact between doctors and their patients in clinics and hospitals across the country. Doctors almost seem scared to touch their patients, and in fact, many doctors don't want to be touched, either. This lack of touch keeps everything at a "safe distance" - it makes their interactions non-personal and sterile. It also allows the doctor to keep patients at a distance, where they can perceive them as patients with patient IDs rather than human beings with souls and spirits and emotions. It is this distance -- this chasm between doctors and patients -- that contributes to the lack of effectiveness in modern medicine.
True healers are willing to get involved with their patients in terms of understanding them, seeing the world from their perspective, and even touching them in a healing way with positive intent. That's why our modern physicians are outstanding technicians, but terrible healers. Personally, I would much rather see a massage therapist than a physician, unless I were suffering from sort of radical, acute injury such as an accident in which case, of course, Western doctors and surgeons are the very best in the world. But when it comes to treating chronic disease and maintaining a high degree of health on a regular basis, massage therapy and healing touch offer an outstanding system of healing that I highly recommend.
Natural Ways Beat Stress & Anxiety
These hard economic times bring along with them record stress levels as people cope with a variety of anxiety-inducing issues. Instead of resorting to prescription drugs, many people have begun to seek natural alternatives for controlling stress and anxiety.
Relaxing therapies like massage, yoga and reiki have enjoyed an increased popularity over these past few years as people struggle to cope with a range of burdens. Massage therapy, which used to primarily be used by women, has experienced a huge surge in male patronage. Massage has a variety of benefits that extend beyond the relaxation of the session itself.
Regular massage can improve your circulation, reduce chronic anxiety, promote natural bodily healing processes, relieve muscle tension, and lower blood pressure. Regular massage is usually characterized as once or twice per month. Reasonable packages can now be found in several massage service chains, as well as locally owned businesses.
Yoga is another excellent stress relieving practice that can also tone the body and provide excellent fitness benefits. Yoga is particularly helpful in managing stress even after your regular sessions because it helps you to master deep breathing. It helps you to control your respiration during stressful times, which eases the impact of anxiety on the heart and other body functions.
Yoga has also been associated with lower blood pressure, improved mood, better immunity and improved gastrointestinal health. Often times stress is associated with digestive and gastrointestinal discomfort, high blood pressure and poor immune function. For many people, yoga really helps with curbing stress and a lot of its related physical manifestations.
Exercise, in general, is an excellent antidote to anxiety. Multiple studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise reduces the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, circulating in the blood stream. Exercise also elevates our levels of feel good hormones such as serotonin. Serotonin, one of the main neurochemicals responsible for elevated mood, can be greatly reduced by periods of anxiety.
Increasing the circulation of these natural chemicals in the body greatly increases our ability to deal with distressing or frustrating situations. The simple act of intense aerobic activity also can help you vent your frustrations and distract you from ruminating about a particular problem.
Reiki is another practice that has gained in popularity the past few years. Reiki originated in Japan. It is a healing and relaxing therapy; whereby, the practitioner transfers his or her healing power to the patient via light touch on affected body parts. It is primarily used to help heal physical ailments, but also has been used as a relaxation and meditation therapy.
If you are looking for a natural supplement that can help reduce anxiety, there are a few that seem to be helpful for a majority of people that take them. The first is St. John's Wort, which is used as both a natural antidepressant and anxiety remedy.
Passion flower is used for relaxation and easing of tension associated with chronic stress. Kava is another herbal remedy that is used to help combat anxiety and calm nerves. Kava is also very useful as a natural sleep aid.
Massages are a great way to release tension and stress and promote relaxation. But a new study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine has revealed for the first time that massages also provide a measurable, therapeutic benefit to the immune system as well.
Dr. Mark Rapaport and his team of researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., evaluated 53 people, 29 of which received 45-minute Swedish massages--one of the most common forms of massage used in the U.S.--and 24 who received gentler, light touch massages. Researchers took blood samples at intervals before and after the massages and found that those who received even just one Swedish massage experienced significant, positive changes in blood composition.
"This research indicates that massage doesn't only feel good, it also may be good for you," explained Dr. Rapaport in a press release. "People often seek out massage as part of a healthy lifestyle but there hasn't been much physiological proof of the body's heightened immune response following massage until now."
Besides experiencing a significant increase in lymphocytes, the white cells in the body that help fight and prevent disease, the Swedish massage group experienced lower cortisol levels as well. Cortisol is the hormone released by the adrenal gland in response to stress.
The Swedish massage group also experienced a decrease in arginine vasopressin, a hormone linked with aggressive behavior.
"European-style massage is often used to treat back pain, sleep disorders, and other stress-related disorders," explain Bradley J. Willcox, D. Craig Willcox and Makoto Suzuki in their book The Okinawa Program: How the World's Longest-Lived People Achieve Everlasting Health.
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