The Power of Massage for Supporting Your Body's Stress-Fighting Endocannabinoid System
The Power of Touch
Touch is more than just one of our five senses: it is the first sense we develop as human beings. Touch serves as our initial bridge to life, our first connection between our inner world and the world that surrounds us. At just eight weeks old, we begin to grow a network of nerves inside our budding bodies, allowing us to feel the sensation of touch inside our mother’s womb. Before we can see, smell, taste, or hear, we can feel the difference between hot and cold, rough and smooth, and pressure and pain. It only makes sense that we can heal our bodies through the power of touch. When we massage our bodies, we speak through our skin and reach the source of our earliest memories.
What is Massage?
Massage is a healing modality that has evolved with humans for thousands of years and which uses touch as a way to heal the body. Massage therapists “manipulate the soft tissues of the body (muscle, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments) to enhance a person's health and well-being” (Northwestern Health Sciences University). In modern Western culture, massage is often viewed as a luxury and indulgence, but at the heart of this practice is powerful preventative medicine that can benefit nearly anyone.
Massage and Your ECS
We all have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) whose essential purpose in our bodies is to promote homeostasis, or a sense of overall balance. The ECS achieves this balance by helping our bodies “relax, eat, sleep, forget, and protect” (McPartland et al). Many of the roles of the ECS run parallel to the health benefits of massage therapy. A study on massage and occupational stress states the many physiological benefits of massage, such as
dilation of blood vessels: helps increase blood flow throughout the body
increased skin temperature: stimulates the immune system
body relaxation: promotes overall wellbeing
the production of lactic acid in the muscles: creates fuel for the body
improvement of lymphatic and venous circulation: stimulates the immune system
stimulation and healing of the connective tissue: helps repair damage done to muscles (Yousefi and Nazari).
A powerful supporter in the ECS, anandamide (or AEA for short, nicknamed “the bliss molecule” for its euphoric effects) is created by our bodies to help us relax and to ease the stress which can threaten our health and wellbeing. In one study, body-based practices like massage “increased anandamide 168% over pretreatment levels” (McPartland et al). Researchers still have much to learn about the best ways to care for our ECS, but massage and other CAM (complementary alternative medicine) interventions are believed to be sensible methods of enhancing of the ECS (McPartland et al).
There are many different methods of practicing massage therapy, which can each be tailored to an individual’s needs, such as Swedish, deep tissue, Thai, reflexology, or sports massage. Depending on a person’s access to healthcare and more costly forms of alternative medicine, massage is unfortunately not readily available to all the people who could benefit from its relaxing, therapeutic effects.
Luckily, the practice of self-massage, a ritual Hempsley founder Kristen Williams uses for her own self-care, is a simple and cost-effective way of achieving the same sense of well-being. Simply using lotion, massage oil, or even a CBD cream, you can massage yourself from head to toe, circulating blood flow, increasing skin temperature, encouraging the production of bliss molecules in your body, and using the healing power of touch to make yourself feel healthy, safe, and loved.
Special thanks to Kiskanu for providing us with the resources we needed to put this post together!
McPartland, J. M., Guy, G. W., & Di Marzo, V. (2014, March 12). Care and feeding of the endocannabinoid system: a systematic review of potential clinical interventions that upregulate the endocannabinoid system. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951193/.
7 insights to be a massage therapist. (2019, July 15). Retrieved from https://www.nwhealth.edu/school-of-massage-therapy/massage-therapy-definition/.
Yousefi, H., Mirzamohamadi, M., & Nazari, F. (2015). The effect of massage therapy on occupational stress of Intensive Care Unit nurses. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 20(4), 508. doi: 10.4103/1735-9066.161001
This article was written by Kira G. and published on October 11, 2018. Copyright ©2018 Hempsley®, All Rights Reserved