Massage, Health, and Oxytocin

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This weekend I get to do something I love doing and look forward to every May and August! I go to Camp Unleashed right here in Becket, MA. Yes, Camp Unleashed is all about dogs and their people. For three days, people come out to a YMCA camp in the woods of Becket with their dogs and do everything involving their dogs. They play, learn, swim, hike, and deepen their bonds.

What do I do? I get to lead Canine Massage workshops in the evenings — teaching and leading people in how to massage their dogs for health, healing, and being better advocates for their dogs by being the first to notice when something changes or goes wrong – conditions like arthritis (joint pain), injury, growths, and ticks which can lead to Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases (and yes, tick borne diseases are as unpleasant for dogs as they are for people). Both evenings are fun and relaxing for everyone!

Why am I writing about this? Canine Massage is an evening about being happy and healthy for both the dogs and their people! Many of us know the benefits of receiving massage. Our health improves through the skilled and healing touch of massage in many ways such as needed relaxation, improved circulation, lowered blood pressure, reduced stress hormones, and healing from strain or injury. For dogs, the benefits are the same when they receive massage. Massage calms them when they need calming such as after a long hike or when they are nervous before or during a storm. Massage can be done to energize them when they are getting ready for agility and/or show events so they are at their best. Massage improves healing times, increases circulation, lowers stress hormones, and increases the bonds we have with our canine companions.

Another important benefit of massage is the increase of oxytocin in both ourselves and our dogs — especially when we also include eye contact. Oxytocin is the hormone that not only leaves us feeling good, it also decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) which strengthens our immune system and our health. Oxytocin’s effects go even further — it plays an important role in social bonding and attachment while building trust. Also, when we increase our levels of oxytocin, we are more likely to experience a calm-and-connect response which aids in our feeling good and receiving all the benefits of massage — isn’t that something we’d all rather experience?

If you have a dog in your household, consider taking a few minutes to give some calming massage. It’s easy to do, fun, and you will both feel calmer and healthier.

If you don’t have a dog, no worries! You can massage your cat. You can also share massage with all the members of your family. We all deserve more oxytocin and the healing that comes from even a few minutes of a shoulder or foot massage.

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