September 08, 2009
Day One of Neurology and I am already swimming in new information! We have just begun to talk about The Central Nervous system, The Peripheral Nervous System - Afferent Neurons vs. Efferent Neurons, Sympathetic - Fight or Flight! Parasympathetic - Rest and Digest!
The land of the learning is an exciting place to be...
We started with Homeostasis: The ability to maintain relatively stable internal conditions even though the outside world changes consistently (Marieb) And how that balance is achieved through either a Negative Feedback Mechanism (when a reaction is stopped due to it reaching the ideal value - think of how your AC turns off when it hits that perfect 76 degrees) or a Positive Feedback Mechanism (when the body is asked to increase the change, encouraging it to get to a natural end point). His example for Positive Feedback was how during birth, the act of that baby trying to make their way into the world causes and chemical reaction in the Mother by releasing Oxytocin. This is the hormone that makes the contractions come - causing the baby to press harder, releasing more oxytocin, increasing the speed and strength of the contractions until the natural stopping point is reached - A new Birthday to celebrate!
What does this have to do with Massage Therapy?
Well...one of the side effects of increased Oxytocin levels is the chemical and physically phenomenon of bonding. And according to Dr. Ray Sahelian, MD: Oxytocin is a hormone that helps relax and reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels. Oxytocin increases pain thresholds, has anti anxiety effects, and stimulates various types of positive social interaction. In addition, oxytocin promotes growth and healing. He goes on to explain that: Oxytocin can be released by various types of non-noxious sensory stimulation, for example by touch and warmth. Most likely, oxytocin can also be released by stimulation of other senses such as olfaction, as well as by certain types of sound and light. These Mechanisms may trigger the release of oxytocin. This means that positive interaction involving touch may be health-promoting.
I realize that some of this may be a little hard to get ones head around - but isn't it wonderful to think that a healing touch (Aromatherapy and Sound Therapy too!) can be this complex and amazing? That a scientifically proven chemical change with so many benefits (normally reserved for childbirth) can be stimulated in anyone by their Massage Therapist!
I must admit, it is pretty inspiring to be learning how Massage Therapy and the power of healing hands work - starting with something even as small as a neuron.