Massage and Bipolar disorder


So this is the easier of two posts to write, the other post being why I started blogging in the first place. Over our 6.75 year marriage, I have seen how my massages have affected bRaving Bipolar and maybe she will chime in and share her first-hand experience as to the effects she feels.
Massage does wonders for the body and the mind. About one in every day and a half I’m massaging something on her. I have spent considerable time looking up different techniques, employing Swedish massage and trigger-point techniques. The hardest part about massage isn’t actually massaging. The most difficult aspect is figuring out where to massage; either in response to her complaints of pain/tension, or by probing, or maybe even a little of both. Not only this, but one would need to understand the relationship between muscles, nerves and the vascular system of the body. For example, if your hamstrings are sore, rubbing your hamstrings ONLY will produce a temporary relief, but a much longer and deeper release of tension can be achieved by examining the other areas that interact with the hamstrings. The Achilles tendon, bottom of the feet, calf and “ass”. If you are REALLY serious about relieving tension, realize that it goes much farther than the sight of perceived discomfort.
Example 2: rubbing the neck will not relieve the neck. Why not? Because the muscles in the upper back and shoulder tie in so closely that tension in them will cause tension in your neck. So, the question is: awesome Pillars, how the fuck do I know what to massage first? Great question. Answer: get feminine with your hands and apply lotion liberally.
Whatever do you mean?! It takes a long time to really be “good” and I’m not really educated or licensed. So by the way, if you do what I’m saying and you get hurt or get someone else hurt, you are at fault.
What works for me is: gentle massage, almost just brushing the skin, feeling for tension. If you are familiar with your spouse’s body, you will tell what feels out of place as far as tension. Someone who is a body builder or competitive athlete will feel different from someone who is not. Probe with your fingers and hands, see what feels tight, or like a large boulder under their skin. This not only helps you identify what to massage, but helps the recipient of your massage help you identify what else hurts or is tense that they initially did not perceive.
After that, you’ll need to come up with your own “massage game” or technique. I like to employ trigger point techniques (which require you to memorize where the trigger points are-not necessarily all of them, just in the most-commonly tense spots for your spouse), which really get her loose, and finish up with a lighter Swedish massage and some light “pinching” to finalize.
Typical spots I hit are: bottoms of feet, calves (especially the area at the bottom where the calf muscle really balloons out from the Achilles tendon), hamstrings, butt, pants line, lower back, lats, and a more specific routine for the upper back and neck.
For upper back, I like to pinch the traps and apply a LOT of pressure on them between my thumb and first finger, holding for a few seconds and slowly moving my fingers together. This can be painful, but it shouldn’t be anything more than slightly uncomfortable. After that, move laterally and massage the area between the shoulder and neck, followed by the outside, then front, then back of the shoulder joint itself. Finally, massage the pecs (this is not a boob fondling session, should stay north of them, but south of the collar bone). Hit the back side of the neck in a vertical motion with the thumbs, on each side of the spine. Move them upwards towards the base of the skull, each thumb pressing forward and in, as if they’re drilling to the center of the spinal cord at a 45 degree angle. After that, do some pinching motions with the thumb and first finger positioned horizontally, so that the pinching is done against the width of the tendon and not the length. Do each side at the same time. If you’ve got time, finish up with some light Swedish massage on the sides of the head above and behind the ears, and the back of the head.
Other things you can use: gold ball, or other larger, hard. non-nonabrasive surfaced spherical object. This really helps to apply a fair amount of pressure in a small area with minimal effort and the “rolling” feeling across the skin and muscle feel different, but pleasurable, from the use of hands.

So, why is it so effective?
According to Leonard (2010) it releases several different neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, and dopamine, which can contribute to e relaxed state. This is in addition to the obvious physical benefits, which include reduced muscle tension, better blood circulation in the affected areas, better mobility and a generally “healthy” feeling in the now-relieved areas.
This can aid in reducing overall stress on someone for whom stress triggers symptoms for their condition. After talking with bRaving Bipolar a bit more about it, she mentioned that a person who is bipolar needs to be “present” to fully enjoy the benefits. All the massaging I did this year did not prevent her episode, nor help her come out of it. Watt (2012) quotes another professional as saying that massage in unstable bipolar patients can worsen symptoms, and possibly cause them to act out sexually; they need to be stabilized first.

References:
Leonard, C(2010) How does massage therapy relieve stress? Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/115944-massage-therapy-relieve-stress/ Retrieved on 21 October 2012.
Watt, A. (2012) Massage and bipolar disorder. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/massage Retrieved on 21 October, 2012.

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5 responses to “Massage and Bipolar disorder

  1. Pingback: Invest in Your Health | myHolisticServices Blog

  2. massage is an integral part of my staying healthy and keep bipolar symptoms at bay. I have a professional massage every 10 days. I wish my dear hubby would take the initiative like you but alas it is not to be. So I pay for services. I’m well worth it!

    • I wish I could send bRaving Bipolar out to get a professional massage more often. As easy as it is to massage her here and save the money, I think part of what makes a massage in a spa-type setting is that she gets to get out of the house, no worry that kids will bother us, no worries that pets will bother us, no responsibility to take care of anyone but herself for a little while, and she gets a full hour of attention. The closest I’ve come to doing that for her is soaking a towel in steaming hot water, draping it over her back, picking it up after a minute or two and using lotion to massage her. Not a full hour, the last 2 times I’ve done that it was a 30-40 minute “session”.
      Giving her a massage is really fulfilling for me on an emotional level. I know that she likes it and I like to see that I can make her feel good, so I continue to do so often. My massages may not be very long sometimes, it may just be an area (like her heel last night) but I listen when she says something hurts and I do what I can to ease the hurt, or make it go away.

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