Spring has sprung! I’ve been sleeping with open windows, waking up to the early morning chirping of birds, lacy sunlight streaming through newly flowering and leafy trees, and, unfortunately, to a little bit of congestion and an unpleasant tickle in the back of my throat.
New plants have risen, and with them, much dreaded pollen counts. It’s time for allergy massage! To date, my approach to allergy massage has focused on two main tactics: Direct massage of affected areas (e.g., the sinuses) to alleviate congestion, and relaxation massage to reduce stress. Massage of affected areas is fairly intuitive — if you are stuffed up, manipulating the sinus cavities can help remove congestion and encourage drainage. And improving circulation to the area can help reduce painful swelling and inflammation.
As one whose seasonal allergies have declined in recent years, I can personally attest to the profound effect of stress reduction on allergies. A major career and lifestyle change and frequent breathing exercises, combined with other stress reduction techniques and regular use of my neti pot have drastically reduced my seasonal allergy symptoms the past few springs. And with good reason. Stress has a number of damaging effects on the body in general and the immune system in particular, notably increasing histamines in the bloodstream (if you’ve benefited from the use of anti-histamines for allergy relief, you know firsthand that histamines do not help allergy symptoms) and, when chronic, elevating the body’s cortisol levels and weakening the immune system. While stress is not the root cause of allergic reactions, it can greatly exacerbate the symptoms, and reducing stress can bring considerable relief. It is also worth noting that allergy symptoms are hard on the body — any condition that limits breathing is likely to increase tension in the neck and shoulders, and the effects of coughing and sneezing are, well, nothing to sneeze at. Those are some spastic involuntary actions, and they can hurt. Relaxation massage loosens up the allergy-ravaged neck, chest, and shoulders while reducing stress. It’s a win-win.
I recently had the opportunity to study tui na (traditional Chinese massage) with Jeffrey Yuen. In that class, we practiced tui na massage for auto-immune disorders. While my approach to allergy massage usually incorporates some shiatsu points, it has mostly been rooted in a western approach to massage, and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to delve a little deeper into a different perspective. In my next post, I will write about revisiting my approach to allergy massage by incorporating some of the lessons from my most recent class. Stay tuned! And, in the meantime, happy spring and best wishes for easy breathing!