The calming effect of a nurturing touch on the body lends that massage therapy could be a panacea for many aches, pain and anxiety. While that may be a presumptuous claim, massage therapy has proven to have a positive effect on most of the major body systems as well as to alleviate muscle tension and aid in correcting distorted structural patterns. The very act of compression while stroking muscle tissue increases blood flow to help remove toxins and bring in vital nutrients throughout the body. In turn, constricted or “knotted” muscles relax, inducing a release of mood-enhancing substances and a reduction of stress related mechanisms. “We know for sure that massage – even self-massage – instantly slows down your system.” Says Dr. Tiffany Fields, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami - School of Medicine.
Dr. Fields is among many professionals whose research validates the efficacy of massage for the reduction of stress and relief of pain. Aside from the ability to improve circulation, increase metabolic rate, nourish cells, facilitate removal of toxins and waste in the tissues and induce relaxation, massage feels good! How many therapies can make those claims?
In a recent article from Ladies Home Journal, Dr. Fields further states that, “EEGs, EKGs and saliva tests showed that brain waves change, heart rates decrease and cortisol levels drop, both during and after treatments.” Cortisol is one of the “fight or flight” (Sympathetic) hormones secreted by the adrenal glands when the body is in a state of emergency. For short periods of time it enhances the body’s ability to fend off danger but, with prolonged secretion, as in a period of duress, it becomes a tremendous burden on the body. Decreasing this hormone in an otherwise “stressed” individual can assist in achieving a more balanced state.
In the proper hands, massage for stress relief works to lower levels of sympathetic hormones while conversely, initiating an increase in the levels of Parasympathetic or, “rest and digest” hormones including the neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. These substances induce relaxation and enhance feelings of well-being.
In the scope of practice, not all “massage therapy” is relaxing – or intended to be. Therefore, choose a therapist carefully. Although rigorous techniques, active therapies and some deep tissue modalities can alleviate tension, break up and reduce scar tissue and bring increased blood and oxygen to injured tissue, they are not necessarily conducive to a relaxed state. “Ay, there’s the rub”!
There are a few considerations for those interested in receiving massage therapy for stress relief. First, therapists in the State of Florida are highly regulated by The Department of Health (DOH). Therefore, a Licensed Massage Therapist, or LMT, should have a posted license with a MA number issued by the DOH – Division of Quality Assurance. This will insure that the therapist has received the proper training and testing.
Next, deciding which type of massage may be most suitable is not a difficult choice. There are many names used in advertising but, the most the most common is Relaxation or “Swedish”. This refers to the more generic style and, in the “hands” of a competent practitioner, the benefits mentioned above should be gained.
Finally, the length of time and cost can vary significantly from region to region and type of facility. A half hour session should relieve the most concentrated areas that the body holds stress (for most, the neck, shoulders and back). A full hour could also include the front and back of the legs, arms, hands and upper chest. Commonly, the cost is more affordable in local, private centers, where they rely on repeat business as opposed to more metropolitan areas, nicer hotels and cruises, where you can expect to pay considerably more. Regardless of the investment, the relief provided for the mind and body is time and money well spent.

Author's Bio: 

Cassandra "Cassie" Curley, BA, LMT is a native Floridian who was born third in a family of ten children to be raised in Fruit Cove. Married for 24 years to the love of her life, they have two grown children and a successful health center in the Orlando area. She is stepmother to two from his previous marriage, step-grandmother to two.
As a business owner, athlete, artist, actress who sings and dances, Licensed Massage Therapist and perpetual student, she has been conscious of her spiritual connection from a very young age. This sojourn has brought the peace and contentment to inspire her to share this new venture as "author". She can be reached at www.serenitycenter.com .