Wellness strategies for cold & flu season
There are many important lifestyle choices we can make this winter to strengthen our immune system and reduce our risk of contacting winter infections. Among these are taking nutritional supplements, eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, washing our hands well, giving up smoking, trying not to get chilled, and getting sufficient rest. Fortunately, one of the most effective and relaxing methods to boost our immune system is getting regular therapeutic massage. In fact, massage can be a good complement to other strategies for staying well: it helps reduce sore muscles and improve joint flexibility after exercise, it helps us sleep more soundly, and it can help flush out toxins so our nutritional uptake is also more efficient.
Lymphatic Drainage Therapy
Lymphatic Drainage Therapy is a gentle, relaxing massage technique using very-light-to-light pressure and soft "pumping" movements to help manually stimulate the flow and drainage of lymph and to stimulate the immune system. The lymph system is the main filter for our immune system. Increasing lymph flow helps the lymph system remove harmful substances from cells faster and improve nutritional uptake in cells, both of which can strength our immune function. Unlike the blood circulatory system, which moves quickly around the body due to the powerful action of the heart, the lymph system has no central "pump" and relies on a combination of deep breathing and muscle contractions -- yet another benefit of regular exercise -- to move lymph fluid through the body. When the lymph system is sluggish and congested, our immune system is less effective at eliminating pathogens and toxins, making us more susceptible to headaches, joint/muscle soreness, fatigue, frequent cold/flu infections, acne outbreaks, and it can even affect our mood. Correctly applied, Lymphatic Drainage Therapy can increase lymph movement by as much as 20 times its normal rate, making it helpful for:
- o Reducing Edema (fluid retention)
- o Managing the symptoms of Lymphadema (after removal of axillary lymph nodes during treatment of breast cancer)
- o Speeding healing of sports-related injuries and scar healing (by bringing blood and plasma to the injury site)
- o Boosting energy levels
- o Increasing the metabolism
- o Enhancing immune response
This technique is counter-indicated in the presence of acute inflammation, malignant tumors, thrombosis (blood clots), and major heart problems, which is why it is important to discuss all current health conditions with your massage therapist. As with all massage, it is helpful to increase water intake after a Lymphatic Drainage Therapy session to help flush toxins from the body.
Reiki is a vibrational or subtle-energy-based healing modality that helps rebalance the meridians, chakras, and energy field of the body so it can naturally begin to heal itself. Reiki treatments may be done on a massage table with the client fully clothed. The therapist / Reiki practitioner uses specific hand positions -- held either above or on the body -- to move life-force energy from the practitioner to the client. Those receiving Reiki treatments generally report that they feel deeply relaxed and often experience a feeling of warmth or tingling in the area being treated, even when the therapist is not touching the body. It can be a nice addition to other therapeutic practices like massage and conventional medical treatments.
Hot-stone massage is an incredibly relaxing form of massage. Different sized smooth, flat basalt stones are first pre-warmed in hot water. The therapist then removes a stone and uses it (along with massage oil) to apply warm pressure in long strokes along major muscle groups. Once the area relaxes, the therapist leaves the stone in specific places on the body, or between toes and fingers. Because basalt has high heat retention and stays warm for quite a while, it helps to relax muscles, improve circulation, and calm the nervous system. The effect is very soothing - particularly in cold weather, when feeling under the weather, for achy joints and muscles, stress reduction, insomnia, or back pain. Some of our therapists also use cool (pre-chilled) marble stones on the face to reduce inflammation and reinvigorate skin and sinuses as part of the stone massage session. Hot-stone massages last 90 minutes.
Pregnancy (Pre-Natal & Postpartum) Massage
Massage can be very helpful for pregnant women after their first trimester. Occasional massage during pregnancy can help relieve aches, pains, and back strain, plus help the mother sleep better. And regular massage during pregnancy can make labor and delivery easier. After delivery, postpartum massage can be really helpful for both mother and child during that early adjustment period when no one is sleeping well or for long. Many International Therapeutic Massage therapists are specially trained to work with pregnant and postpartum women and infants. At ITM, we have both pregnancy massage tables and pregnancy pillows that allow a mother to lay on her stomach and receive a massage -- even a day before delivery.
Migraines & Other Headaches
Are you prone to periodic headaches or migraines? Do allergy-inflamed sinuses keep you stuffed up and headachey all year? Can you predict air-pressure changes better than the barometer on your wall? When headaches come on, massage can be helpful for reducing the severity of head pain, often eliminating it completely. And regular massage can help lower the frequency of many types of headaches by reducing other processes in the body that cause them, such as sinus congestion and muscle tension -- particularly in the shoulders and neck.
Massage for Seasonal & Chronic Allergies
Many substances can trigger allergic reactions. Symptoms may be as mild as a runny nose, itchy eyes and ears, coughing, sneezing, earaches, sinus congestion, and headaches, or more debilitating reactions like migraines, asthma, bloating/gas, joint pain, depression, lack of energy, and - in the most severe cases - anaphylactic shock. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says that allergies affect more than 50-million Americans, making the condition the 3rd most common chronic disease among children and the 5th among adults. Fortunately, massage is a complimentary therapy that can help reduce many of the symptoms of an allergic reaction, while also helping strengthen the immune system. This, in turn can reduce the body's inflammatory response to the offending substance, often making symptoms less severe. With regular massage, the immune system can be strengthened and that may make it less reactive to some allergens. Since there may be a link between our overall stress levels and an increase in the frequency and severity of allergic reactions, regular massage also can help keep allergies in check by increasing blood and lymph circulation, lowering heart rate, stabilizing blood sugar, and regulating blood pressure, all of which help your body be more effective at ridding itself of the foreign bodies that trigger allergic reactions. For those with sinus irritation and congestion or headaches, massage that focuses on the head, neck, and throat can be very effective in reducing or eliminating those symptoms, particularly if it's combined with lymphatic drainage techniques - with or without the addition of aromatherapy oils. Massage also helps those with lung congestion or who've recently had an asthma attack reduce chest tightness and breathe more easily. If you or a loved one suffers from seasonal or chronic allergies, we invite you to talk with one of our therapists today and experience how massage can help reduce many allergy symptoms while helping you lead a healthier and more peaceful life.
How Massage Benefits the Immune System
Getting massage on a regular basis while we are still healthy has been shown to help us stay that way. If we do manage to get sick, our body will likely be better prepared to fend off the illness more quickly. There is no better time than the present to take action and make an investment in protecting your health. There are many ways regular massage is known to benefit our immune system, including:
- o Increasing White Blood Cell Production, our body's main defenders
- o Improving Blood Circulation, which helps speed up our body's immune response to injury or invasion
- o Providing Greater Movement of Lymph in the Lymphatic System, which is the main filter of our immune system
- o Lowering Cortisol Levels, a stress hormone that hinders our immunity
- o Enhancing Relaxation and Sleep, which in turn allows our body to rest and repair itself
- o Deepening Breathing, which increases the oxygen available to all the cells of our body
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