9-5 is overrated

March 4, 2005

stairwell accompaniment:U2- Joshua Tree

Massage Therapy.
Such a vague field for so many. I have family and close friends who have known me since I started working in massage therapy nearly four years ago and still wonder what, exactly, my work days look like. To me it is simple- and now second nature- much more a passion than a profession.
But I’ve realized lately that I often verbally package my work (to those who don’t really understand what I do or why) as a close relative to physical therapy. Which is partly true. I work in conjunction with occupational and physical therapist and I’ve had the same amount of anatomy and physiology education as RN’s. (Back me up here, Cat. State Medical Board, blogga pleaze!) And even to myself I have often considered my job as strictly medical and mechanical. Cause and effect. In a field as taboo as massage therapy, I would always rather lean toward medical than spiritual when spiritual isn’t often defined in terms of my God. I remember putting on my devout Christian face in school when we were presented with “energy work”. In one ear and out the other.
But a few years in the field has shown me that I can’t deny the power of simple physical touch. I tell people that I keep office hours at a nursing home and when pressed for further information of how exactly I work with my patients I use the term “touch therapy”. My elderly clients are living alone, possibly due to the death of a spouse, a family who cannot care for them properly in the home and are now limited to the physical touch they may or may not receive during their routine nursing care. Limited touch. And if newborn babies die without nurturing touch, can the same not be said for the grown?
I say that we live in a generation defined by personal space. We live in bubbles and by letting people in we risk vulnerability. It is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job: to be invited into someone’s personal space and to see, experience the rewards that come from physical touch. Some seen, others felt.

Study after study indicates that touch has a beneficial effect on our perception of pain, treatment of disease, and emotional and physical development. Touch is important for survival itself. We’re meant to be touched. It’s part of our inherent genetic development.
Medically: It’s been shown that after a touch therapy, such as massage, there’s a reduction in the action of the hypothalamic area of the brain, which controls the so-called “fight or flight” response. The body’s level of stress hormones decreases and the level of endorphins increases, leading to a minimized perception of pain and a greater feeling of well-being.
Emotionally, spiritually, connecting on a deeper level…there’s so much more. This is my work day.

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