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The healing power of touch

The average American is constantly being pushed to do more, work harder and get things finished faster. For some, a constant state of stress has become the norm.
“Our culture feeds off stress, I think,” said Betsy Okonski, a massage therapy student. “Americans work harder and longer than just about everyone else in the world.”
In such a fast paced world, taking time out to relax becomes increasingly important. One of the easiest ways to get deep relaxation is massage.
“That hour of peace is so beneficial,” said Margaret Evans, a massage therapist at the Healing Touch Therapy Center and Spa. “(Clients) carry that with them for days.”
Massage enthusiasts believe there’s very little a good stress-relieving massage won’t cure.
“If you’ve got stress issues or tension headaches, if you’re dealing with diseases or anything like that, massage will help,” said Evans.
Massage can ease aches caused by sitting at a desk all day, standing at a counter or clicking a computer mouse too much. They can also increase peace of mind.
“Stress relief is not to be underrated,” said Okonski.
Physically, massage therapy releases tension in the muscles and toxins from the body.
“All the hormones that are released when you get into that stress mode never get a chance to be flushed out,” said Okonski.
Because massage helps release such toxins, it’s important to stay hydrated following a session. Another benefit of massage is improved circulation.
“By massaging the body, I’m manually pushing the blood,” said Evans.
Emotionally, massage therapy allows for a brief period of calm and for human contact, something modern day society doesn’t always approve.
“We’re a touch-free society because we’ve stigmatized touch to equate sexual behavior,” said Michael Parks, a teacher at The Whole You School of Massage.
Not having basic human contact can be harmful to both children and adults. Parks points out studies that examine differences between children who either receive physical affection or do not.
“Their school work – there’s a major difference,” he said.
Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from positive touch.
“It’s a basic human need,” said Evans.
When a client is nervous, massage therapists discuss the process before it even gets started.
“Especially if people are new to it, I’ll sit them down, and talk them through the session,” said Evans. “It’s a very safe way to have positive human contact.”
These therapists have been through hours of training and are licensed by the state. Those who attended year-long courses received intense instruction on human anatomy.
“Massage therapists are the only muscle specialists,” said Okonski.
And even if they have hectic lives of their own, for the time a client is in their hands, they focus on relaxation.
“All our measures of achievement push people to work harder, work longer, do more, compare themselves to everyone all the time,” said Okonski. “If nothing else, (a massage is) an hour to completely relax your body.”
Staff Writer Sarah Grano can be reached at 704-735-3031 or sgrano@ltnews.com.
by Sarah Grano

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