Stress is implicated in many illnesses, physical, emotional, minor and major. It can affect behaviour and our whole sense of who we are, and our ability to feel at ease with ourselves.
Whilst it would be simplistic to say that every illness is caused by stress, the body produces specific hormones and neurotransmitters as part of the stress response which have far reaching effects, including tensing muscles, increasing pulse rate and blood pressure, stopping the digestive process and lowering the immune response.
The stress response is an efficient, practical method for responding to danger, but it is not meant to be on high alert all the time. Unfortunately for many of us it becomes something we experience constantly. Indeed it can almost become a way of being.
Bodywork modalities which take a 'whole person' approach rather than focusing on correcting a particular musculo-skeletal dysfunction work by alleviating the effects of stress.
These treatments are deeply relaxing, offering the bodymind the possibility of listening to itself, consciously and subconsciously, coming into the present, stilling the mind's chatter. From this place of rest and awareness a sense of wholeness can arise. We may notice that muscular tension suddenly releases, even if we were not aware that we had been tensing that muscle; suddenly the breathing slows and becomes deeper and more free. Sensations of anxiety (commonly felt around the throat, chest and solar plexus) may feel as if they are being let go of.
I use a variety of different skills in sessions, which can include deeper tissue work where muscles are particularly tight, although where this is due more to long term stress rather than specific injury or poor posture and usage, I find that it is more helpful to work with a lighter touch, and to encourage a state of deep relaxation so that the muscles release as the mind and emotions settle.
There have been many studies done, showing the value of what is sometimes called therapeutic touch in the maintenance of our health and wholeness.