“The Physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in rubbing…for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.” (Hippocrates )
Many years of research has established that Massage Therapy has a myriad of positive physiological benefits. This includes improvement to range of motion, increased blood circulation, facilitating the elimination of toxins and other metabolic wastes for better cell nutrition, increasing elasticity of tissue, reducing healing time from injury, and strengthening the immune system. Manual therapies are an effective treatment for a number of psychological issues as well, such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress just to name a few.
Let’s talk about the Psoas muscle, a favorite of mine to illustrate the healing power of massage…
“The psoas is the tenderloin (filet mignon) of the human body. Juicy, supple, and dynamic, it is the primal messenger of the central nervous system. Your psoas is much more than simply a muscle. It can be perceived as the guardian or spokesperson of what is commonly referred to as your gut intuition. In some spiritual philosophies, the Psoas is referred to as the muscle of the soul.” (Liz Koch Core Awareness)
The Psoas is actually two muscles; the Psoas Major and Illiacus and is the core muscle of the body. This muscle is the strongest hip flexor and only muscle that attaches your spine to your legs. It becomes a super highway for communication from the lower body to your upper body and brain. The Psoas can have a major impact not only on our physical wellbeing and but also our emotional health.
Here are snippets of Liz Koch’s research from an article by Body Divine Yoga for an in-depth look at this complex muscle:
“The Psoas muscle is the deepest muscle of the human body affecting our structural balance, muscular integrity, flexibility, strength, range of motion, joint mobility, and organ functioning. Growing out of both sides of the spine, the psoas spans laterally from the T12 vertebrae to each of the five lumbar vertebrae. From there it flows down through the abdominal core and the pelvis, to attach to the top of the femur bone.
A healthily functioning psoas stabilizes the spine and provides support through the trunk, forming a shelf for the vital organs of the abdominal core. The psoas is connected to the diaphragm through connective tissue which affects both our breath and fear reflex. This is because the psoas is directly linked to the reptilian brain, the most ancient interior part of the brain stem and spinal cord. As Koch writes “Long before the spoken word or the organizing capacity of the cortex developed, the reptilian brain, known for its survival instincts, maintained our essential core functioning.”
Koch believes that our fast paced modern lifestyle, which runs on the adrenaline of our sympathetic nervous system, chronically triggers and tightens the psoas – making it literally ready to run or fight. The psoas helps you to spring into action – or curl you up into a protective ball. However, if we constantly contract the psoas to due to stress or tension, the muscle eventually begins to shorten leading to a host of painful conditions including low back pain, sacroiliac pain, sciatica, disc problems, spondylolysis, scoliosis, hip degeneration, knee pain, menstruation pain, infertility, and digestive problems.
In fact, “The psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, that a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.”
Is it any wonder then as each adhesion is removed and fascial restrictions are released using massage techniques, the sympathetic system will relax and release this ‘Fight or Flight’ response? This in turn loosens its grip on the structural system as well as our emotional body.
As someone born with an autoimmune disorder, Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have lived with the physiological and psychological implications of an overactive sympathetic system. So I suspect you can appreciate my passionate advocacy of manual therapy. What once was viewed as a luxury became my life line in healing! My personal journey at a very young age healing from this autoimmune disorder turned into a driving purpose: A commitment to life-long learning and to offer the highest quality of manual massage therapy for any that suffer from chronic pain, illness and/or emotional trauma.
Whether it’s chronic low back pain, or a stiff neck from staring at a monitor all day, the benefits of applied by techniques such as Deep Tissue, Trigger Point Therapy, or Sports Massage are more than a luxury… they are an essential part of a self-care and wellness routine for everyone. These therapies should become a necessary investment, like clean food and water in your personal life-long health care plan.
Written by Rene Geerdes / BCTMB