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2002-09-25 Massage and reflexology

"Stress" was the new twentieth century illness and all of our lives involve stress. Before I go on, I am totally unqualified to talk of things medical but what I would like to do is to share with you the ways in which I find my stress levels reduced. Everyone is different, so I must stress (no pun intended) that this is my experience.

 

At least once a month I need to have a full body massage. Already I am sure certain peoples minds are working overtime, and this is sadly due to the fact that massage has been somewhat abused socially and can have seedy connotations, but the therapeutic use of massage has been around for thousands of years and has been proven to help a multitude of conditions of which stress is only one.

Massage has a positive effect on all the bodys systems, in particular the circulatory, lymphatic, muscular and nervous systems. It stimulates the digestive organs, improves breathing and can help skin conditions.

Of course it is most effective in the control of pain and in the creation of a general sense of well-being. Some of the effects of good massage have a preventative nature as well. When muscles are loosened and the circulation is good, good health will prevail and there will inevitably be less chance of any disfunction.

When we are stressed our body responds by tensing the muscles, irregular breathing, increased heart rate and blood pressure. Stress is normally held in the neck and shoulders, and by massage, the build-up of these unwanted toxins can be released.

It goes without saying that the hands are capable of performing incredible tasks (he said as he types this on his laptop at an incredile speed of six words a minute!), so it will come as no surprise that hands play the main role in good massage.

Not only do hands have amazing dexterity but they also possess incredible powers of sense and are very underused as tools to encourage good health from a body. Obviously a good masseur/ masseuse will quickly tell you that giving massage involves the whole body, but the hands are the main player.

Tensions created from fear can badly distort our posture. We contort our bodies and tense up everywhere. Massage will relieve this tension and also remould our faulty posture. If you want to take this one step further I can highly recommend the Alexander Technique or Tai Chi, but as with all alternative therapies and medicines, make absolutely certain you get a good teacher.

When in Dublin I go regularly for a Ki Massage or Deep tissue massage and my masseur Michael Cantwell is to be highly recommended. When at home in Sligo, I go to Rittee Sriklad for Thai massage, and find it equally beneficial - also to be highly recommended. There are lots of other massage therapists in the area who I am sure are well worth a visit. I am speaking purely from my own experience.

"Aromatherapy" involves massage using essential oils. These oils have medicinal and antiseptic properties and are capable of changing someones mood by way of the olfactory system. "Shiatsu" is another route, and after that there is a whole host of alternatives, but I would be bluffing a little.

"Reflexology" is an holistic treatment (originally known as Zone therapy) which can be used to encourage healing or to simply restore the bodys natural equilibrium.

It has been proven to ease sinus problems, asthma, migraine, and a multitude of aches and pains. The reflexologist (Sheila Chamberlain is mine)will use his/her hands to apply gentle pressure to the feet, a sort of micro-massage of reflex points on the feet.

Again this treatment is over 5000 years old, and the idea is that each part of our body is reflected in its own special reflex point on the foot. These reflexes extend to the top of the head along meridians and by applying pressure to the reflex points the meridians can be cleared.

Many cynics out there find it too far-fetched to believe that by massaging someones feet you can help treat, say, sinus problems, but all I can say for me it definitely works. It is just that little bit beyond my comprehension how, but it does.