But not me! Oh no; bring me your snot and your loogies, your swollen sinuses and bulging lymph nodes! I’ll wear a mask if I gotta, but I know when you’re sick, some body work can REALLY help you get better faster.
I’ve told many of my clients when they are arriving at the onset of cold symptoms not to worry about me but to be prepared; you will likely experience all 7-14 days of your cold in the next 3-6 days. Hope you bought tissues.
How does massage help with getting over a cold quickly? First, by decreasing nervous system stimulation. Taking some of the load off the nervous system allows it to focus on your body’s natural healing processes. If it’s worrying about the achy back and the this and that, it can’t focus on the oh-so-necessary (if a lot gross) mucus production.
This mucus is super important. It dilutes the invading bacteria, decreasing it’s concentration, and making it more difficult for the bacteria to move and gain entry to your body cells. The mucus also contains all the bacteria eating phagocytes (remember them from the Healing Process articles?) you need to collect those bacteria, destroy them and remember them for next time! Specific immunity is your body indexing the various enemies you have encountered and what it needs to stop them from spreading.
Experiencing a healthy, soothing touch from a care giver also communicates something very important to your body; safety. Feeling safe and cared for goes 10 steps even further for the nervous system to relax a little bit. When you were a child and really sick, the one thing you wanted in the whole world was to be safe and warm in your bed with your mom or dad close by.
Knowing you are protected is a huge part of getting healthier. Now I’m not saying I’m gonna come home with you and put a cool towel on your forehead and feed you soup, but that feeling of being safe can occur with an RMT you know and trust. And though it’s not the same as mom and dad in the next room, sometimes it’s the next best thing.
Finally, from a mechanical perspective, massage therapy opens up all the drains in your body. By reducing muscular tension, veins and lymphatic vessels carrying all the yucky stuff can flow more efficiently to the excretion organs to get rid of the yucky stuff. This in turn means that all the healthy fighter cells, fresh oxygen, water and food our sick body cells need can get in to the area. A back log of sickly material is a lousy thing and prevents the good stuff getting in.
If one has been hacking and coughing a lot, the ribs and thoracic spine they attach to become very stiff as the muscles are tired from the effort of breathing and expectorating. Reducing this tension and increasing the movement here makes respiration a whole lot easier, again increasing the availability and movement of important fluids and gases. And of course, opening the sinuses within the face and cranium decreases the pressure from all the fluid in there by allowing it to drain down the throat. This decreases the pain of the sinus headaches and... decreasing the stimulation to the nervous system and what do you know we are back where we started.
So Massage Therapy really is a great benefit when you are sick. Just… maybe try and swallow all that yucky stuff if you can. And, if you need to cough or sneeze, warn your RMT first!