Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Let your body speak

Amira Elhamy gives tips on how massage therapy can help destress your body

Let your body speak
Let your body speak

We get exposed to an almost endless amount of stress on a daily basis. But psychologists say that stressful experiences have markedly negative effects, leaving the body more vulnerable to various kinds of illnesses, including high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome and degenerative heart disease. So how can we responsibly control our exposure to stress?

According to UK author Beth MacEoin in her book The Total De-Stress Plan, pleasurable experiences appear to carry important health benefits. Research has shown that while our immune system can be depressed by the recollection of stressful memories, recalling pleasurable ones can actually boost the immune system. In the same way, laughter and exposure to enjoyable sensual impressions generally benefit health, MacEoin says. 

Stress relief can take place through techniques like physical exercise, meditation, yoga, taking certain vitamins, and eating certain kinds of food. One of the most significant techniques of stress relief is massage. MacEoin says that the latter is one of the most relaxing treatments available, as the relaxation we experience as a result of massage when our muscles have been tight and tense is immediate. 

If having a full body massage on a regular basis is expensive, having a weekly neck and shoulder treatment to alleviate migraines, back pain and headaches can also be very beneficial. Another good tip is getting to know the techniques of face, shoulders, hands and feet massage and doing a self-massage on a regular basis.    

One French massage expert who lives in Cairo explains that there are several types of massage, some being for basic relaxation and others for pain relief. She explains that our muscles and certain body spots can experience pain as a result of certain common factors like sitting in the car for long hours, having the neck bent while gazing at a mobile screen, or sitting at a desk with knees bent. All these things can cause muscle pain.  

Special massage techniques can be used to relieve that pain, as well as Chinese acupuncture for the same reason. According to the French expert, one of the most important types of massage is manual lymphatic drainage, which supposedly encourages the natural drainage of the lymph that carries waste products away from the tissues and is important to prevent water retention. This technique can be used to treat sinusitis and immune disorders, she said. 

Another type of massage is Shiatsu, which comes from traditional Chinese medicine. The name means pressure, and the basic technique is similar to acupuncture but without using needles. It includes massage with the fingers, thumbs, and palms with assisted stretching and joint manipulation. It is mainly used for lower back pain. 

The French expert said that there are 72 pressure points in the human body, and applying pressure to them could resonate with the functions of some body organs. “Applying pressure to these points betters the function of the internal organs, helping to regenerate them and helping in treatment. But the pressure technique must be applied frequently if treatment is desired,” she said.

Scented oils and aromas can be used during massage. “ usually use pure natural oils like olive and almond oils, as they penetrate the skin and leave it soft. But other scented oils can be used, especially in spas, to create a relaxing effect like lavender, sandalwood, sage, lemon, coriander and eucalyptus oils,” she said.

Another important point is the psychological relief that the person experiences during and after massage. “During massage, people usually talk about their problems and about what is making them stressed out. People tend to open up during massage sessions, and this benefits their psychological health,” she added. 

Pakinam Mohamed, a Cairo resident, said that merely living in Cairo was enough to stress her out. She gets continuous neck pain from the long hours she spends driving her car or sitting for eight hours at work. “I have massage as a regular treatment that helps to relieve the neck pain. I know that some people do it just for relaxation as massage has a pleasurable soothing effect, but I do it more as a treatment.”

“If I experience muscle tension or pain, I do massage every week. If it is just for relaxation, I do it every month. There are now several places for massage in Egypt, and some massage experts do house visits,” she said. 

Massage had helped her psychological health, she said. “Many times I go to the massage session in a bad mood. But once the session is over, I feel that my mood has been positively boosted.”

While there is no doubt that stress will stay in our lives, it is important to know how to relieve it.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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