The Healing Power of Touch
For Easing Your Pain: Physical Therapy continued...
When all goes well, patients see improvements within several sessions. When
treatment is completed, not only should you have decreased pain but you should
also understand the conditions that contributed to your pain, as well as how to
prevent it in the future — often by doing exercises on your own, prescribed by
your physical therapist. Lee felt better by her fourth visit. “I always assumed
physical therapy was just supervised stretching. I was skeptical about what it
could do for me,” she says. “But I’ve gone from shuffling out of bed to walking
like a normal person.” And she’s preparing for her next marathon.
To find a physical therapist, try the American Physical Therapy
Association site at apta.org. The cost of treatment can range from $100 to $180
per appointment, and most PT sessions are covered by insurance.
For Taming Stress: Massage Therapy
What it is: You already know that it’s the perfect way to pamper your
stressed-out self. But massage can be much more than an indulgence.
Neuromuscular massage, for instance — the most common type of therapeutic
deep-tissue massage — uses pressure on particular points in the fascia (the
fibrous connective tissue that surrounds the muscles) to treat specific
injuries or chronic pain. Ordinary massage therapy ultimately works by
stimulating pressure receptors under the skin, which increases the vagal nerve
activity in the brain, thereby boosting serotonin (the feel-good, anti-pain
neurotransmitter) and lowering cortisol, the stress hormone that takes a heavy
toll on your defenses against disease.
Why try it? In more than 100 studies over the last 15 years on the
effects of massage, the Touch Research Institute found that it can ease pain,
improve function of the immune system, decrease autoimmune problems such as
lupus and arthritis, enhance alertness, and possibly even lessen your risk for
heart disease. One study found that receiving regular massages can help lower
blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones in those with hypertension.
Massage therapy can even curb migraine headaches. Adults with migraines who
received twice-weekly, 30-minute massages for five consecutive weeks reported
more headache-free days and fewer problems sleeping than a control group that
didn’t receive massages, according to a study. Massage also reduced the number
of weekly headaches in chronic-headache sufferers, according to a study
published in the American Journal of Public Health.