Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020

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Ta k e 5 a n d t r y A B M P F i v e - M i n u t e M u s c l e s a t w w w. a b m p . c o m / f i v e - m i n u t e - m u s c l e s . 41 • Depression • Insomnia • Metabolic syndrome • Myocardial infarction • Suppressed immune function • Type II diabetes • Weight gain Researchers also noted that increased levels of anabolic hormones—specifically growth hormone IGF-1 and estrogen— measurably increased telomerase activity. These hormones are activated during the parasympathetic nervous response, a "rest- and-recover" state that is the opposite of the "fight-or-flight" sympathetic nervous response (or stress response) described above. The findings identified a clear correlation between prolonged stress response, decreased telomere length, decreased telomerase activity, increased cellular oxidative stress, and increased incidence of chronic disease. In short, the cellular changes that result from prolonged, chronic stress increase the likelihood of chronic diseases and premature aging. APPLICATION TO BODYWORK While there have not been specific studies correlating the effects of massage and bodywork on telomere length and telomerase activity, a good deal of research has investigated the effect of massage and bodywork on the stress hormone cortisol. As assessment measures using saliva and urine (rather than blood tests) have become more accessible and reliable, data is showing consistent results of decreased cortisol levels with massage therapy application. If there is indeed a positive correlation between lowering cortisol and increasing telomere length and telomerase activity, this provides a solid scientific argument for massage and bodywork improving general health, reducing likelihood of chronic disease, and increasing overall longevity. Of particular note, this analysis highlights the health benefits of massage and bodywork on a chemical and associated cellular level. Many practitioners are comfortable detailing the positive health benefits of massage and bodywork on a structural level: decreased scar tissue and adhesion formation, increased circulation and tissue mobility, improved range of motion, etc. It can be more difficult to describe the generalized, systemic benefits beyond relaxation or accessing a parasympathetic response. Understanding the relationship between prolonged stress, chemical changes that occur as a result of chronic stress, and the effect on cellular aging clarifies the issue. Stress is a normal part of life, and stress responses are essential to survival. Shifting out of a stress response and allowing the body to rest, repair, and recover is equally essential. Cellular function and longevity suffer when exposed to prolonged stress, and this phenomenon is both measurable and repeatable. Maintaining a constant stress response, while common in our modern lives, is not sustainable. Studies are revealing the effects of elevated stress hormones and correlating these changes to cellular consequences like shortened telomeres and decreased activity of telomerase. Chronic stress is literally prematurely aging people, contributing to chronic diseases and potentially early death. Massage and bodywork is one of many modalities that help shift the body out of that stress response, improving function and longevity on a cellular level. These studies support the anecdotal response we see in our clients every day: calm, content, relaxed individuals who have been reminded what it feels like to be at peace in their own bodies. Christy Cael is a licensed massage therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. Her private practice focuses on injury treatment, biomechanical analysis, craniosacral therapy, and massage for clients with neurological issues. She is the author of Functional Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Palpation for Manual Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009). Contact her at christy_cael@hotmail.com. Cell Telomeres Shortened telomeres Telomeres shorten, cell division stops For more information, read "What Are Telomeres? "

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