Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Massage and High Blood Pressure

Photo by WebMD
High Blood Pressure is a very common condition.
 According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC),  one in three American adults has hypertension.


First what is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure in our arteries as our heart beats, pushing the blood through the arteries. Our blood pressure is also the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest. Just as water running through a pipe has a pressure, so does the blood running through our arteries.

Blood pressure is measured in two ways:
1.       Systolic blood pressure (top number)  which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats
2.       Diastolic blood pressure which is the pressure in the arteries  between heart beats, when the heart is at rest and refilling with blood.
In general, people use the term “High blood Pressure” and “Hypertension” interchangeably. Hypertension is a diagnosed cardiovascular condition where blood pressure is chronically elevated. High Blood Pressure may be acute (short lived) or may be a symptom of another problem such as blocked arteries from fatty deposits in the arteries.

Our blood pressure is effected by our stress levels, genetics, our diet, exercise or lack thereof and other unknown factors.

The good news is that Massage may help  to lower blood pressure especially when combined with medication!

The Journal of Human Hypertension  reviewed  nine studies and twenty-four clinical trials evaluating 1,962 people with Hypertension. A data analysis showed that massage helped lower Systolic blood pressure more than just taking medication. It did not appear to lower Diastolic pressure. 
Eleven of the clinical trials compared groups that received massage and medication vs. another group that just received medication. Meta analysis of the data  showed that the people who received massage and medication had the biggest reduction in blood pressure numbers.

So massage is a very helpful adjunct treatment for high blood pressure! Of course, it is vitally important that people with Hypertension remain under their doctors care and take their medication as prescribed.

As a Shiatsu practitioner and Chi Kung Healing Touch practitioner, I am interested in how energy work may impact this condition in a positive way. 

The meridians are pathways of energy in the physical body that flow much like water.  In a river that is blocked by a dam, the pressure is very high above the dam and below the dam the pressure is depleted. In Shiatsu, we talk about the energy of the body being “Jitsu” (blocked) or Kyo (depleted). 

So working the meridians with touch, intention and directed energy, helps the smooth flow of energy in the body and when the flow is smooth and unimpeded, the pressure balanced.

Additionally, each meridian has an Exit Point and an Entry Point. When the Exit point of a meridian is blocked or closed the energy in that meridian can not be discharged and builds up pressure or a feeling of being “stuck” while the meridian it feeds into is starved of energy. So making sure all the Entry/ Exit points are open ensures an open, flowing system which is balanced and harmonious. It is my theory that this opened balanced flow could lower blood pressure. 

In a more general sense, when the energy anatomy of the body is open and balanced people feel more relaxed  which may lower blood pressure.

When we are more balanced, it is easier to live in the world with an open heart and a system where energy flows unimpeded helping us to navigate  life with calmness and confidence.


References:

Jerrilyn Camdon, "Massage Therapy Reduces Blood Pressure,"Massage and Bodywork" Jan. Feb. 2015

Us Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“High Blood Pressure”
www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure