The effects of Aromatherapy Massage on the Nervous System
Fast and furious lifestyles, with constant levels of stress, create untold amounts of pressure on the physiological and structural systems of the body, and seriously pinch our psychological outlook.
Robert Tisserand, one of the most respected Aromatherapists of our time, referred to stress as a ‘multi-dimensional syndrome’ because it affects ‘every facet of our being.’ He goes on to suggest that ‘the reason for aromatherapists’ success with stress is because they are employing a multi-dimensional (or holistic) therapy.’ Aromatherapy skilfully combines massage with the therapeutic use of pure Essential Oils, the benefits of deep relaxation and the psychological support of a trained professional. Firstly, appropriate massage pressure each side of the spine, in particular the cervical vertebrae C3, C4 or C5 which connect with the phrenic nerves to the diaphragm, can beneficially influence your breathing. Suitable pressure around the Thoracic vertebrae, T3, T4, T5 and T6 stimulates nerve impulses relaying messages to the intercostal muscles of the ribcage, causing the muscles of inspiration to contract. Once the inspiration mechanisms are flowing, expiration will automatically follow. Adequate movement of the ribcage also helps to massage the liver, the organ that deals with toxic wastes in the system, and beneficially affects the heart. Not bad for just one tiny part of a full Aromatherapy session.
Add to that the fact that your body is having its muscular system eased, its natural buoyancy restored, and the effectiveness of its circulatory, lymphatic and immune systems boosted, and you begin to get the picture.At each Aromatherapy session a suitable essential oil blend is made up and applied; massage speeds up the absorption of essential oils by your body, ‘Being highly fat-soluble, essential oils readily gain access into cells through the lipid-rich cell membrane’.
Once absorbed, the balancing activity of the oils begins, with messages from the limbic system helping to regulate nervous response, hormone levels and neuro-chemical production. “Essential oils are chemicals …, and the body deals with them using ordinary metabolic pathways.” You can also continue to use essential oils at home for on-going support with many aspects of daily life. The third therapeutic benefit tackles a myth about effective massage. ‘No pain no gain’ does not apply to holistic Aromatherapy practice. Through the rhythmic and relaxing massage techniques your body and mind reach a deeper level of relaxation, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system – responsible mainly for preparing the body for rest – to kick in, and your own capacity for well-being is re-ignited. A highly effective hour on the massage table feels like you’ve just had a day off.
Last, but not least, the psychological benefits of my kind of work. A new client said to me recently “…one of the most beneficial things was the fact that you didn’t talk all the way through which gave me the chance to completely relax and let go myself.” Now some confidence in her own ability to do that is restored, this client, like many others, will be able to reproduce some of the effects at home, and continue to ‘aromatherapy-relax’ herself. Far more than a ‘nice experience’, a well-spent hour with a professional Aromatherapist can help your body and your mind step out of harmful stress patterns. All it takes is one step in the right direction. What will your next step be?
Chryssie Burgess, member of the Natural Health Care Centre based in the Chaplaincy Centre, has been in professional practice as Clinical Aromatherapist for over 17 years. She is a full member of The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists.