Stress and Massage

Recently I hiked to the bottom of Waimea canyon on the Hawaiian island of Kauai with a massage therapist who works as a guide on her days off.  Along the way we discovered there was more overlap in our professions than you might guess.  Her training, which was a bit unusual, included the idea that some people, while undergoing massage, will experience recall of past or present stress.   My guide was taught to ask clients about what they were feeling in their bodies in the area that was being massaged.  This gentle prompting led many people to recall significant challenging life issues.  Other massage therapists have told me similar stories even though their practice did not include asking leading questions.

Going even further, my guide will sometimes gently suggest responses or new ways to consider the stresses.  For example, if a client reports a problem in the workplace, she will suggest that the client need not simply tolerate the situation but can look for active response.  The follow-up to this is to ask if the sensation in the body has changed after considering the suggestion and often the client will report improvement.

Twenty-five years ago I would have been quite skeptical of this approach.  Now that I have interviewed thousands of patients about life stresses and the impact on their bodies, what my guide was relating makes sense.  Most massage therapists focus on muscles and tendons but the gentle inquiries and suggestions used by my hiking guide offer a useful approach to unrecognized life issues.