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10 Secrets Your Massage Therapist Knows About Your Body

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Whether you’re an uninhibited veteran or a skittish first-timer, there are physical secrets you can’t hide from me, your massage therapist. The good news is they’re pretty much universal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shaped like an apple, a pear, or a bottle of pomegranate juice. Leave your underwear on, if it makes you more comfortable. The truth will still come out.

1. No one’s face is symmetrical. I’d love to clamber onto the shoulders of Michelangelo’s David to see what he looks like from the angle I enjoy from the head of my massage table. From that vantage point, we’re all Picassos, our eyes and nostrils more chaotically placed than you might imagine. I guess morgue workers have similar access to these sorts of upside-down facial realities, but I’ll stick with live flesh.

2. Nothing is immune to gravity. Breasts fall, bellies lose their elasticity, and those of us lucky enough to survive our first three or four decades have more dewlaps than an iguana. Rather than attempting to outfox the natural progression of time with painful, expensive procedures and injections, revel in the elegance of biology.

3. Sight is not the only sense that matters. The softest, most wonderful-feeling flesh I ever touched belonged to an 80-year-old competitive swimmer…who finished last in every race he entered. He seemed happy enough, hopping onto the table for a complimentary sports massage after every heat. He took care of himself, and it showed…in a nonvisual way. Other favorite clients smell really good or laugh like delighted hyenas when we discover a muscle they’d forgotten they had.

4. Scars are badges of experience. This includes the stupid ones, like that circular exhaust pipe burn on your calf, a souvenir of an aborted day trip in Bali, when dressed in shorts and flip-flops you rented a scooter you didn’t know how to operate and took it for a spin. Every picture tells a story…every scar suggests there’s a story waiting to be told.

5. A deep breath is truly beautifying. Whether you’re releasing the countless pesky irritants of an average day or passing through a doorway to profound emotional release, you look great doing it.

6. Ditto good posture. Not everyone is capable of this. Working with a first-time client, I sometimes think, “Oh, you poor thing, I bet you played college football” or “I bet your job required you to stand in high heels eight hours a day for some twenty-odd years. These hands-on insights allow me to tell teenagers to stop slumping without fretting that I’ve become an old fusspot. (Did I just straighten your spine? Hooray! I’m magic!)

7. Your embarrassment is endearing. Farting is natural, especially when your abdomen’s being probed in a therapeutic way. And knowing that most boners are beyond their owner’s control, I refrain from taking them personally, unless you start agitating for a “complete release,” also known as a “happy ending.” (I hate to ruin your fairy tale, pal, but that’s not where our story’s going…today or ever.)

8. Silicone breasts and patchy hair plugs do not inspire tenderness, but the motivations and insecurities behind them do. Don’t be ashamed if you clicked on this article, secretly hoping for scientific proof of a miracle berry with the power to erase cellulite, acne, and all evidence of sun damage. Deep down, we’re all children, longing to believe.

9. Your brain is a much better liar than your body. We tell each other—and ourselves—all sorts of whoppers in our desire to save face, minimize our true feelings, or shirk responsibility. Our mouth may pay these untruths lip service, but there’s a puckered forehead, stiff buttocks, and bunched-up trapezius that would beg to differ.

10. Your body craves affection. Past experience, the difficulty of daily interactions, and suspected ulterior motives can convince us that others are best kept at arm’s length, but simple, compassionate touch is a gift your body will gladly receive. I know you’re only here because you screwed up your neck, but as long as you’re paying for it, there’s no shame in savoring every aspect of the experience.

By Ayun Halliday

Why Thai? The Health Benefits of Thai Massage

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Did you know that we offer Thai Massage here at Precision Wellness? Learn more about the benefits of Thai Massage in the article below, and then give us a call to schedule your own Thai Massage!

Health Benefits of Thai Massage

Thai Yoga massage is an ancient technique; a therapist specifically trained in the art stretches your body with assisted yoga poses. This massage technique focuses on energy points, called “sen.” When the massage therapist stretches your body, she also presses and massages along the sen lines.

How does Thai massage help muscular tension?

To release muscular tension, the Thai therapist presses feet, hands, thumbs, knuckles, and fingers into certain points while holding you in a stretch. This helps relieve areas of stress and tension. Techniques involved include acupressure, tissue compression, and soft tissue manipulation.

How does Thai massage improve circulation?

A Thai massage works in similar ways to regular yoga poses. As you hold a pose, your blood slows to targeted areas. When the pose is released, circulation flows back into the area. There are some positions, including the plough, shoulder stand, and spinal twist that are particularly effective with circulation. Inverted poses can help with lymphatic drainage.

How does Thai massage help release stress?

Yoga and massage therapy are both listed as alternative approaches to mental health care, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. By manipulating your muscles in a Thai Yoga massage, emotional and mental stress are released. Thai massage includes meditation, which also helps you to relax and better manage your stress.

How does a Thai massage boost a body’s immune system?

A boosted immune system is considered one of the benefits of Thai massage. By invigorating the nervous system through massage and relaxing toxins with improved circulation, you may increase your immunity to disease. Yoga devotees also believe that practicing yoga poses can improve your body’s immunity and lead to longevity.

Thai massage may be an appropriate option if you are uncomfortable with being only partially dressed or nude for other types of massage. With this type of massage, you remain dressed and no massage oil or cream is applied. This type of therapy may last one to two hours.

Massage and Weight Loss

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Weight Loss and Bodywork | Helping You Meet Your Goals
By Genevieve P. Charet

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring/Summer 2010. Copyright 2010. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

Massage–anything this good must be fattening, right? Wrong! Scientists now confirm what massage therapists have always known: massage can be a powerful and effective weight-loss tool. By improving your body’s resilience, aiding muscle nutrition and flexibility, and supporting your mental and emotional well-being, massage can take your weight-loss plan to a whole new level.

The relationship between massage and weight loss is the result of many subtle improvements working together, including better injury prevention and healing.

Jeff Wooten, founder of YourBodyMechanic.com, explains: “Massage helps to heal existing injuries by breaking down scar tissue and other adhesions. This creates a more functional muscle and improves joint integrity.” Massage therapists also work to improve your flexibility and range of motion. This makes you less likely to hurt yourself, meaning more productive and pain-free hours in the gym. But the benefits don’t end there.

When you receive a massage, you’re directly impacting the circulatory system. By constantly moving blood to body tissues, your massage therapist increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients your muscles receive. This soothing cycle eases you into much-needed rest and relaxation time.

Deneen Rhode, a massage therapy instructor who teaches fitness classes, says, “The qualitative style of Swedish massage relaxes the nervous system and takes the body into what is known as the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic state is very restorative to the body–it is where the body needs to go to heal itself.” When you accomplish this through massage, it means you’ll need less recovery time between workouts and that you can move your fitness routine full speed ahead.

Jeff Mann, the regional manager for Cortiva Institute Schools of Massage Therapy, knows this firsthand. With experience as both a massage therapist and personal trainer, he has seen the way massage can help clients drop pounds and keep them off. “Massage to weight loss is like the padding on a steering wheel–you can do without it, but it makes it a lot easier and more comfortable to hang on to.”

Make It Work For You

Losing weight isn’t easy. Thankfully, it’s simple to incorporate massage into the healthy lifestyle you’re building. It’s a good idea to have a special consultation with your massage therapist about your new goals and fitness plan so that treatments can be customized to your body’s specific needs.

Meredith Nathan, director of massage at Pulling Down the Moon in Chicago, says there are some specific questions you should be prepared to answer. For example, “If you’re following an exercise routine, how has it affected your body? Are there any particular areas of tension or discomfort? Where do you tend to gain weight first? How is your digestive health? Is your lifestyle relaxed or stressful?” The more information you can provide your therapist, the better your results will be–and this extends to your medical history. During your intake process, inform your massage therapist about any health problems, surgeries, medications, and even recent minor illnesses you’ve had. Anything your doctor needs to know, your massage therapist needs to know as well.

”Generally, massage on a healthy [client] should be no more that 90 minutes; 60 minutes is the most common,” Rhode says. Weekly massages are ideal, but you can reap plenty of benefits from monthly visits, too. Your massage therapist will work with you to set a specific schedule of appointments that fits with your workout routine, as well as your finances. Don’t be concerned if your MT wants to see you more often at the beginning of your plan–this is normal, and helps him or her to get to know your body’s way of handling stress and exertion.

Don’t Be Shy

While it’s natural for anyone to feel a little self-conscious at first about undressing for a massage, overweight clients often have major anxieties about disrobing. If you’ve put off massage therapy because you’re embarrassed about your body shape, take heart: massage therapists are sensitive to your concerns and don’t want you to feel ashamed. Thom Lobe, MD, founder and director of Beneveda Medical Group in Beverly Hills, says, “Massage therapists are just that–therapists. They are used to seeing all shapes, sizes, and conditions of the body. A well-trained massage therapist has an entirely clinical perspective, no different than any other health-care worker. The fact is, when I give a massage…what the body looks like isn’t even in my conscious thoughts.”

Throughout the course of a massage, clients are discretely draped under a sheet, with the therapist only uncovering the body part being worked on. Of course, you can always wear swim attire or undergarments during your massage, although they can hamper the full therapeutic effects your therapist offers. Remember, rest easy in the knowledge that your massage therapist has been trained to nurture and help you without passing judgment. Nathan adds that massage therapists “do not expect to work on bodies that are already in perfect health; rather, we get excited about supporting our client’s journey toward better health.”

The Power of Touch

While it’s easy to overlook your emotional health when planning a new diet and exercise regimen, it’s the primary factor determining your weight-loss success. Along the path to fitness, the role of massage in supporting your mental and emotional health may be a critical component. Massage is a calorie-free reward; a way to treat yourself without guilt. Your massage therapist also acts as a cheerleader who celebrates your victories with you and helps keep you positive and committed.

“The more professionals you have on the team, the better,” Wooten says. “The worst thing to do, in most cases, is attempt to get into shape on your own.” Adding a massage therapist to your weight-loss plan is a great way to tell yourself just how serious you are about taking this step.

Massage is a powerful way to love, respect, and nurture yourself. When you love yourself, you won’t engage in unhealthy lifestyle choices. Rhode calls this “the power of touch”–the unique ability that touch has to make us feel safe, comfortable, and at peace. “Very often, those who are obese or overweight become less social and isolate themselves. They become disconnected from others. They may experience less touch in their lives in general,” Rhode says. This disconnect continues a downward spiral of low self-worth and unhealthy living. Massage is a great way to fill in that gap and rebuild a healthy life from the ground up. “I’ve learned that there are no perfect bodies,” Nathan says. “All bodies are unique and have unique needs. All bodies deserve to be nurtured.”

Regular massage is all about reconnecting with your body and getting back into yourself. As you continue to take time out to relax and care for your body through regular appointments, you’ll naturally become more aware of your body’s needs and more motivated to meet them. It’s all part of a greater picture of health and fitness, one that Wooten says, “is a journey, and not a destination.”

Your massage therapist wants to help you build a bridge between mind and body that will last a lifetime. So update your massage from guilty pleasure status to indispensable health habit, and reap the benefits in the form of a fitter, happier you. You’ve earned it.

Genevieve P. Charet is a Chicago-based freelance writer, copy consultant, and food blogger. To read more about her, visit www.genevievecharet.com.

Massage and Allergies

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Allergy Basics

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthmas, and Immunology, allergies affect more than 50 million Americans, making it the country’s fifth most chronic disease, third among children.

We spend around 7.9 billion dollars a year on treatment—about 4.5 million on direct care and 3.4 billion on indirect care, including lost work.

Allergies are, in the simplest sense, the body overachieving. “Your immune system is reacting to things it shouldn’t be reacting to,” says Leonard Bielory, MD, director of the Asthma & Allergy Research Center at New Jersey Medical School. “Your body goes on high alert against normally innocuous substances, like cat hair, pollen, or peanuts.”

In this reaction, the body’s mast cells, which are loaded with chemical-like histamines and other granules, break open and release these substances, which in turn hurt the body. The result can be everything from life-threatening anaphylactic shock to the more benign runny nose, foggy thinking, and low-grade chronic cough. Of course, you can suffer in many other ways as well, including gas and bloating, eczema, sinusitis, earaches, headaches, and even joint pain, migraines, and depression.

Relaxing the Symptoms

Many Americans rely primarily on conventional treatments, including antihistamines and steroids, both of which can have some adverse side effects. Massage therapists, however, can help relieve some allergy symptoms by reducing stress, increasing circulation, releasing muscle tension, and reprogramming the body’s panic reaction, which can exacerbate symptoms.

“It’s not to take away from the biological, inflammatory component of the disorder,” says Rosalind Wright, MD, a pulmonist on staff at the Harvard Medical School. “But if you use complementary modalities, including massage therapy, you could optimize the results.”

Few studies researching massage therapy and allergy relief exist, but we do know massage helps with stress, as shown in the 1992 Touch Research Institute study where 30-minute body massages on depressed adolescents decreased saliva cortisol levels.

And stress definitely impacts allergies. A 2008 Harvard Medical School study co-authored by Wright showed that mothers-to-be who expose their unborn children to stress may increase these kids’ vulnerability to allergies and asthma.

Wright says that these stressors act like “social pollutants” breathed through the body, influencing the body’s immune response. “Just as you can breathe in an allergen like dust mites or ragweed, you can breathe in stress,” she says. “You take it into your body and it operates in similar types of pathways.”

So just getting clients to relax may help their allergies. “Most experienced massage therapists know the immediate relief from sinus congestion that can result from just lying face down,” Lies says. This position gives you a chance to work on the upper back and shoulders, where many sinus trigger points are located.

Getting More Specific

Roy Desjarlais, a massage and craniosacral therapist, and vice president of clinical services at the Upledger Institute says that calming the muscles around the clavicle and neck area is also helpful in mitigating the fight-or-flight response brought on by allergies, along with its concomitant symptoms, such as hiking the shoulders, holding the breath and tightening the throat. “Anything that works with upper chest and neck will … engage an area relating to the reticular alarm system, which is the system in our autonomic nervous system that responds to fear and anxiety,” he says.

Specifically, Desjarlais recommends working the sternoclemastoid muscle, pectoralis major and minor, the subclavius, and all the posterior neck muscles going into the occipital muscle. You choose the type of strokes, he says, as long as they’re calming. “This is where the art of massage comes in,” he adds.

Desjarlais also recommends referring to a simple reflexology chart to activate the trigger points on the feet for the thymus gland, the master gland for the immune system, and the pituitary gland, the master gland for the endocrine system.

The head offers its own relief, too.

“When muscles tighten up around the head, it restricts blood flow and closes up sinuses,” says Lies. A simple head massage can help loosen these muscles.

Another technique that can help allergies is lymphatic massage, which can help reduce inflammation, remove toxins and support the immune system. “The lymph system is the system best suited to move those accumulated protein molecules and other wastes out of the area,” says Roger Hughes, a therapist and certified Dr. Vodder Method of Manual Lymph Drainage practitioner.

He’s had successes over the years working with long-time allergy sufferers, including children with food allergies who also have frequent ear infections. In the Vodder method, the strokes are light. “Forty percent of the lymphatic system is right under the skin,” Hughes explains. “Therefore, light, pleasurable, rhythmic touch is the mainstay of the Vodder method.”

Also, one-third of the lymph nodes are in the neck. Hughes begins his sessions there, where he says he’s “opening the lymph faucet.” Although Hughes encourages therapists to honor the practice of referring to certified practitioners of lymph drainage for expert treatment, “working with mindfulness, presence, and intention is more powerful than people realize,” he says. “You’re helping that person let go of himself, and let go of unconscious tension. This, in turn, will let all the fluids in the body—the blood, lymph, and nerves—flow more easily.”

Desjarlais agrees and says setting an intention is a practice like meditation—to continually bring yourself back to the issue at hand. It’s a practice he brings to his work in craniosacral therapy, an osteopathic discipline that uses specific techniques to move the cerebral spinal fluid and to calm the nervous system.

Other craniosacral techniques impact the immune system through the endocrine glands and increase overall fluid exchange, all very helpful in allergy relief. Craniosacral therapy also helps to change some deeply patterned responses.

“Sometimes the reason we react to an allergen is habitual—we get grooved neurologically and physiologically, and sometimes when we break these groove reaction cycles, the body doesn’t react to the allergens anymore,” says Desjarlais.

This happened to Desjarlais himself, who had a longtime allergy to shellfish that caused his throat to swell and his stomach to cramp.

Now, he can eat shellfish with only a mild scratchy throat afterward.

Part of the beauty of craniosacral work is that even taking beginning courses can allow you to incorporate some of the techniques into your practice. “Anyone can apply it to their own work,” says Desjarlais.

Massage and allergies can go quite well together!

A Sobering Experience

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When Brendan C., a Chicago-based marathon runner and coach and recovering alcoholic with 20 years of sobriety under his belt, went for a recent massage with his regular therapist, the muscles in his calves and lower back were intractable. His therapist asked him what was going on. Brendan said he had no idea.

The therapist continued working on him. As she did, Brendan began to feel profoundly sad. He realized he was finally feeling the stress fall-out of the recent break-up of a long-time relationship. Only then did his muscles begin to release. “That’s the thing with addicts,” he says, wryly. “We don’t always know what’s going on with us.”

This emotional disassociation can often be a double whammy for those struggling with addictions. “We live in a culture that doesn’t do a good job teaching anyone how to relax, both physically and mentally,” says Jennifer Broadwell, DOM, ADS, an acupuncturist and director of the Wellness Spot, an integrative health center affiliated with the Florida House Experience, a rehab facility based in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

However, this could be changing. More and more, centers such as the Wellness Spot offer a host of non-talk therapies, including massage, as part of their recovery programs. In fact, massage is one of the most popular offerings at the Wellness Spot, with the six therapists doing approximately 200 massages a week.

The center also offers acupuncture, chiropractic services, yoga, meditation and nutritional counseling. Through all of these modalities, but especially massage, “Clients can now feel what it’s like to be present in their own bodies,” says Broadwell.

The Long Road

Recovery is a process, and a difficult one. “Often, the client cannot even articulate what is going on,” Broadwell says. “Because massage is not a talk therapy, it can meet them wherever they are, even if they don’t have the skills to tell us.”

Maureen Schwehr, NMD, a naturopathic physician and craniosacral instructor who works at the integrative clinic at Sierra Tucson, an in-patient rehab facility near Tucson, Arizona, says bodywork offerings are invaluable to the rehab clients, most all of whom choose to participate in them.The massage offerings at Sierra Tucson include Swedish massage, myofascial release, zero balancing, shiatsu, SomatoEmotional Release, and Chi Nei Tsang, a type of Chinese abdomen massage.

Schwehr says that most conventional therapy for recovery focuses on the mind. Once you start considering a mind/body/spirit model, she explains, you have more treatment options. She thinks of the connection this way: “The spirit is who we really are. Our mind is our thinking brain, and our body houses this. If you’re an addict, you often have to ignore your body, because you are, in essence, hurting your ‘house.’” Addicts often continue their destructive behavior by not checking in with their ‘home,’ or their body, she says.

Of course, destructive addictive behavior can have ramifications far beyond the individual addict. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addictions impact nearly all American families in some way. Alcohol, nicotine and illegal substances alone cost more than half a trillion dollars a year, in everything from health care costs to crime to accidents to special services in education.

The jury is still out on what causes addiction—most experts say it’s a combination of physiological susceptibility and environment. However, nearly everyone agrees that recovery is not about simple willpower. As one well-known Alcoholics Anonymous aphorism says, “We’re sick people trying to get better, not bad people trying to be good.”

Gabor Mate, M.D., a physician who worked with addicts in the drug-infested Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for years and author of In the Realm of the Hungry Ghost: Close encounters with addiction, says that addiction seems designed to help users escape pain. “All addictions serve as distractions at the very least,” he says.

Nearly any behavior can be addictive—even seemingly benign activities such as shopping, eating and sex. Mate says it really doesn’t matter what the “drug” of choice is—all addictions involve the same brain circuits and brain chemicals. The NIDA says that when addicts get a hit of their drug of choice, dopamine—the feel-good neurotransmitter—floods their brain’s reward system.

This may be why massage, which has been proven to increase dopamine and serotonin, and decrease cortisol, can help those in recovery. Schwehr says this piece is crucial, especially in the early stages of withdrawal when dopamine often drops significantly. “This can be a very uncomfortable time,” she says.

Other physiological and emotional issues in recovery include pain, agitation, anxiety and sleep problems. Massage—nearly any kind of massage—also helps with all of these, says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the University of Miami’s School of Medicine’s Touch Research Institute, which studies massage. “The body releases fewer stress hormones when being massaged,” Field says. Stress hormones, including cortisol, weaken the immune system and can lead to increased pain.“ This becomes, a vicious cycle,” Field says, “one that massage can help break.”

Also, in a study published in 2002, fibromyalgia patients, after receiving massage twice weekly for fi ve weeks, slept and felt better. Levels of neurotransmitter substance P—which your body emits when you are sleep deprived—decreased. “We found a direct relationship,” says Field.

Massage also helps with overall relaxation by stimulating pressure receptors, which enhance vagal activity. Since the vagus nerve is one of the 12 cranial nerves in the brain, this decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and decreases stress hormones, according to Field. “You will sleep better, be less anxious,” says Field. “It’s a whole chemical reaction that is happening.”

Even those who are going through withdrawal from alcohol, cocaine or opiods relaxed more deeply with a simple chair massage than with 20-minute “relaxation sessions,” where participants sat in a quiet room and focused on their breathing. And those who received the massage sustained the relaxation benefits for 24 hours.

On a more superficial level, clients often just feel better after a massage, says Broadwell. “We’re able to show them, ‘This is what relaxation feels like,” she says. “Someone puts healing hands on you, and suddenly you become aware,” Mate says. “Often people say, ‘I never knew I was that sad/happy.’” To this end, massage therapists may have an advantage over medical doctors like him when working with this clientele, says Mate.

“Massage therapists get the stress/disease connection more than doctors do,” he says. “They actually can feel when a client is holding some tension. Physicians don’t put their hands on people like that.”

In Mate’s experience, most of the addicts he worked with—if not all—suffered early life trauma. In fact, he sees childhood trauma and emotional loss as the template for addictions. Many had boundaries violated. Therefore, tread carefully. Ground yourself first. “Make sure what you’re doing is to help them—not to be a hero, or to save anyone,” he says. If a client relapses, he says, and you get angry with them, then you are in a sense violating their boundaries. “Whatever happens to them, don’t take it personally,” Mate adds.

Diane Ansel, a Chicago-based massage therapist, says consider yourself a guide more than anything. “You work on them, and let it go. It’s up to them to turn it around,” she explains.

What you can offer, she says, is simple self-care techniques for between sessions. Ansel says she often takes inspiration in a long-told story of Gandhi. “I love the story of a mother who came to Gandhi and asked him to tell her child not to eat sugar,” she says. “Gandhi said come back next week. When they returned, Gandhi simply told the child, ‘Stop eating sugar.’ When the mother asked, why did they have to go and return for that? He replied, ‘I hadn’t given up sugar yet.’”

Mate says we can’t all wait until we’re perfect in order to help others. “To the extent that you haven’t dealt with your own stuff—or glimpsed your own possibilities—for you can only take people as far as you can go yourself. But no one ever finishes, so you don’t have to wait, just be aware. It takes a lot of self-awareness,” he says.

He also says that, in essence, all addictions are about self-soothing. Therefore, giving them a pathway with which they can connect to their bodies can be enormously empowering. Broadwell sees this with the clients at her wellness center all the time.

The clients start to realize, she says, that the “medicine” is inside of them. “This is a great paradigm shift,” she explains. First, she sees the effects of massage on the faces of the clients. “And then we hear it everyday in patient feedback: That the chronic pain is starting to improve, that they can now sleep with less or no medication,” she adds.

Schwehr says that one of her clients told her that the massage changed her experience at the rehab facility by “100 percent.” Another client told her that the bodywork she had done allowed her to feel connected to her body in a way she had never felt before.

Massage can even help with some basic rewiring of our brains, knowing what we know now about its neuroplasticity. Often, says Mate, early touch experiences of those who struggle with addiction have been “the opposite of healing,” which is partly why he advocates compassionate treatment for addicts rather than tough love. “[With massage therapy,] when they are being touched, it is not to give someone else pleasure, but to put themselves in touch with themselves,” he says. “If there’s some brain circuit that says to be touched is to be hurt,” Mate adds, “imagine being touched not to be hurt, but to be helped.”

Brendan C. experiences this rewiring, one day at a time. Twenty years sober, he says he’s still learning every day how to get in touch with his body and his feelings. Brendan says that many people with addictive personalities do not feel comfortable touching or being touched, himself included. “Part of the reason I drank,” he says, “was to avoid having intimate contact with those around me—my parents, children, wife.”

However, being willing to open up and to trust has made a world of difference. “Massage builds trust. Perhaps for the first time, the body can be completely relaxed, receptive, without the fear that the other person is going to hurt you,” he says.

This is what Schwehr sees all the time at the clinic, she says. “When someone has an opportunity to be touched, to have therapeutic work on their body, it can bring the [recovery] work home to a much deeper level,” she believes. “It can help connect the body to the emotions. I once read that emotions are our body’s way of telling us how it feels about what’s going on. When you bring someone back to their body, it’s like bringing them home.”

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