Body Sense

Winter 2011

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reduces damaging adrenal response and enhances the natural immune system. By stimulating pressure receptors located under the skin, moderate pressure massage elicits a parasympathetic nervous system response characterized by an increase in vagal activity and a subsequent reduction in blood pressure and heart rate. It relaxes the muscles, calms the mind, and quiets the nervous system. And it doesn't take long. According to Field, "Moderate pressure massage can have benefits following a 15-minute session, [including] improved performance on math computations … and brain wave changes associated with heightened alertness." Similarly, research has shown that just one session of moderate pressure Swedish massage will increase NK cell activity with profound effects on the immune system. Following are a few more reasons why giving in to pressure might be the best thing you can do for your body. SWEDISH MASSAGE Swedish massage is a popular Western form of massage characterized by long, slow strokes and petrissage—applied pressure movements like pinching and skin rolling to compress the underlying muscles. In addition, the therapist may use tapotement, a rhythmic tapping that releases lymphatic buildup and encourages blood flow. Before and after pressure is applied, the muscles are warmed using a series of stroking movements known as effleurage. These three techniques, in combination with kneading and thumb friction, employ moderate pressure to reach the subcutaneous tissue for a powerful and pain-free massage. There's a reason why Swedish massage is so popular. In addition to feeling divine, Swedish massage offers a powerhouse of health benefits in a short amount of time. In the 2010 Cedars-Sinai Medical Center study, one 45-minute session of Swedish massage was linked to a slight decrease in cortisol and a large decrease in arginine vasopressin (AVP). When the body experiences chronic stress, cortisol—a steroid hormone—can build up in the blood stream. Similarly, too much AVP has been linked to high levels of aggression and narrowing of the blood vessels. An overproduction of these chemicals raises the blood pressure, suppresses " Moderate pressure massage could be beneficial for pain syndromes like low-back pain and carpal tunnel, autoimmune conditions like asthma and diabetes, and immune conditions like breast cancer and HIV. Body Sense 5

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