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  • Kevin Joubert, R.Ac

Relaxation Massage: Reduces "Fight or Flight" Response


Fundamental to every treatment is to address a client's physical and emotional response to stress. Any number of triggers (emotions, environment, pain, pathology or stimulants) can result in activating the body's fight or flight response.


The fight or flight response is the body's sympathetic nervous system gearing up to defend itself by increasing blood pressure, heart rate & respiratory rate (including diverting blood from the digestion to the limbs). This response stimulates the musculoskeletal system by increasing it's tone. When under chronic states of stress, long term muscle tone can lead to muscle hypertonicity and trigger point development. Hello, neck stiffness, low back pain and headaches.


The positive feedback loop for this event is as follows: as blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate increase, so does muscle tone. As muscle tone increases, so does blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate. Vicious little cycle isn't it? Now for the good news. When one of these in the cycle is calmed or reduced, so does the other. Relaxation massage helps to reduce muscle tone and in turn calms the nervous system by promoting slow, deep breathing and reducing the fight or flight response.


Treatment goals in this type of massage can include to reduce the perception of pain, reduce hypertonicity of muscles, promote a calmer, more relaxed state and reduce sympathetic nervous system firing. In addition to treatment, some self care goals may include slow, deep breathing techniques, positive self talk, stress management ideas and limiting of stimulants.

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