Massage helps with stress as well as aches and pains


YOUR HEALTH | By Ashley Stewart, Herald writer

Jill Patten, of Shoreline, has been a massage therapist since 1978.

Four days a week she meets with clients at the New Health Medical Center in Edmonds.

She practices in a large, upstairs room with a fireplace filled with Himalayan salts. Clients enter the room as towels warm and soft music plays.

Formerly a dentist’s office and residence, the facility houses nine practitioners that provide services from astrological herbalism and hypnosis to foot care and counseling.

“Most of what I do is pain relief on muscles and connective tissue that are extremely tight or stretched,” Patten said. “But massage doesn’t have to be for a specific problem. It can be for stress release and relaxation.”

A study published in the Oct. 8, 2010, issue of The Week magazine suggests that massage lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone activated by stress.

Patten said that stress can be the root cause for many illnesses and believes massage can be used as a preventative measure.

The medical center’s office manager, Anne Hart, of Seattle, receives a massage about once a month.

“Massage is deeply relaxing,” she said. “It takes you to a different place. At the end, I feel like I’m waking up – surfacing from somewhere deeper.”

Hart suggests that everyone try massage and often gives massage gift certificates as birthday presents.

Alexa Severtsen, 32, has been an instructor at the Northwest Academy for the Healing Arts for two years. She has been a licensed massage therapist for eight years.

“A lot of my clients come in feeling overly anxious, stressed or just generally disconnected,” Severtsen said. “The massage allows them to reconnect with their current body needs. It’s restful and meditative.”

Massage increases the production of endorphins, Severtsen said.

In a 1996 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that, while both 15 minutes of massage and 15 minutes of relaxing in a chair reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, massage therapy is more effective in reducing job stress.

A more recent study published in the March 2012 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry found that massage may help alleviate the symptoms of depression through the release of the hormone oxytocin and relaxation.

Massage can be particularly beneficial to expecting mothers.

“Both pre- and post-natal massage can be helpful to the mother and infant and help relieve associated aches and pains,” Patten said.

The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, a center that examines the effects of massage therapy, found that massage is effective in reducing risk for premature delivery and postpartum depression and can provide improved sleep for babies.

Standard massages typically run $1 per minute, plus $10.

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