For those with daily schedules burdened with task after task—leading to overwhelming stress—and even more responsibilities waiting at home, few have the time to lay down for a massage, whether it’s from a professional or not. However, research suggests that it might be in one’s best interest to make time for the occasional rub, as its benefits have the potential to increase everyday productivity and comfort.?
“Stress is a leading contributor to both physical pain and emotional distress,” says Jen Valkenburgh, licensed massage therapist and Finger Lakes School of Massage?alumna. Valkenburgh’s practice, Massage by Jen, offers “alternative and holistic health services,” and is one of two massage therapists that operate out of the host business, Inner Peace Floats, in Watkins Glen. “Massage therapy creates what is called a relaxation response in the human body that triggers the release of positive healing chemicals,” she says. These chemicals, which are also referred to as “feel good” hormones, include serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. At the same time, massage therapy decreases stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
Aside from providing general pain and stress relief, massage therapy can also remedy the physiological effects of cancer—specifically the strain that chemotherapy puts on the body—as well as function as an extension of the healing process. “The American Cancer Society views massage as an important complementary therapy during cancer treatment,” explains Valkenburgh, who, over this past summer, visited with cancer groups consisting of patients and survivors at Schuyler County Hospital. Together, they discussed the ability of massage therapy to serve as a complement to cancer treatment.?
However, in now way is oncology massage intended to directly combat cancer, Valkenburgh says. “The most important thing to take note of is that massage is not a cancer treatment—it’s an additive: something that goes along with cancer treatment to help provide comfort for cancer patients.”
Inner Peace Floats, where Valkenburgh is one of two licensed massage therapists, offers discounted massages for those that either are currently undergoing—or have previously received—cancer treatment, and have been referred by another treatment institution. These discounted massages, which cost $35 instead of the usual $55, generally aren’t unique in any way, unless the patient’s treatment requires something more rigorous: they are merely traditional, light Swedish massages, which feature long, gliding strokes. Although, for the recipients, whose bodies can be under unimaginable levels of discomfort, these massages have the potential to relieve pain, reduce stress, encourage relaxation, and improve sleep patterns, thus interrupting the pain-spasm-pain cycle and allowing the body to relax, according to Valkenburgh.
“It just gives them a moment of relaxation,” says Valkenburgh, “...it just helps them to feel better for awhile, you know?”