As promised, I continue to add new, potentially helpful therapies to my repertoire. Last week I began doing aromatherapy. This past week, I added deep tissue massage therapy to the mix. Though I had never ever gotten a single professional massage in my life, I have known since I first began contemplating this mission that some form of massage therapy would be a component of my telomere lengthening regimen. I previously viewed it as an unnecessary luxury that could potentially turn into a regular, expensive habit. I began to agonize over figuring out how to select the right place and person with whom to get my very first massage. So, I started asking around.
First, I asked my friend who we will just call “E”. As soon as I broached the subject of massage therapy, his face lit up and he started giggling. He insisted, “You must go and see Candy in the East Village! Tell her I sent you! I’m a regular. And you must, you absolutely must, ask for the special Reiki package! It will be among the very best experiences of your life! Trust me! You’ll thank me!”
I replied, “Ummmm, I really just want a deep tissue massage. You are a sicko and need help! Do you know where I can get a legitimate deep tissue massage to help me lengthen my telomeres?”
E, without a shred of shame, replied, “No, I’m sorry. I don’t know anything about those sorts of massages. I wasn’t even sure they existed.”
That ended the conversation and I decided to seek the counsel of my friend Lucja in London, who I should have asked in the first place. Lucja is a former professional massage therapist to the rich and famous who recently earned a Master of Science in Nutrition. She guided me through the process and suggested I select a particular therapist. She said, “That is who I would want to get a massage from.”
Some of you may be thinking, “John, this is more quackery. You’re wasting your time and money. There is not a single study to indicate that massage therapy might lengthen your telomeres. Of all the things you could do to potentially lengthen your telomeres, why are you choosing this luxury?”
In my view, one of the most compelling reasons to utilize massage therapy is that it has been practiced for over 3,000 years, dating back to Chinese and Egyptian civilizations. As with Aromatherapy, whenever something has been consistently practiced for a very long time, it is something I am interested in learning about.
Yet, it’s true. There are no studies that indicate any type of massage lengthens telomeres. There is, however, a preponderance of evidence to suggest that massage therapy:
- Relieves Stress
- Treats Back Pain
- Reduces Chronic Pain
- Muscle Rehab
- Increase Joint Mobility
- Lowers High Blood Pressure
- Helps Arthritis Pain/Symptoms
- Breaks Down Scar Tissue
I, as does just about every other living, breathing American adult, experience stress. Numerous studies link chronic stress with shorter telomeres. As such, any means by which to relieve that stress is theoretically helpful to lengthening telomeres. Yes, there are no studies involving the impact of massage therapy on telomeres, but perhaps my experience will inspire some.
In an interview for the American Psychological Association, Stacy Lu interviewed Dr. Elissa Epel who stated, “An enzyme called telomerase can replenish it (telomere length), but chronic stress and cortisol exposure decrease your supply. When the telomere is too diminished, the cell often dies or becomes pro-inflammatory. This sets the aging process in motion, along with associated health risks.”
Dr. Epel went on to say, “When we expose our bodies to years of chronic stress arousal, we see effects that override normal aging, making our telomeres look like they are from a significantly older person. When we look at groups of people with psychiatric disorders related to dysregulated emotional responses, especially depression, and compare them to controls who have never experienced these disorders, they consistently have shorter telomeres.”
As a leader in the field of telomere research and co-author of the groundbreaking book “The Telomere Effect,” Dr. Epel’s comments lead me to conclude that massage therapy might aid in telomere lengthening. Even if it fails to lengthen my telomeres, it almost certainly will not shorten them.
In addition to having some stress, I also suffer from chronic back pain. There are numerous studies indicating that massage helps with pain management. In fact, massage therapy might be more effective, and is certainly safer, than many opioid prescription drugs so often prescribed for chronic pain.
Considering all the weight lifting and cardio training I’ve been doing, a good massage would definitely aid with muscle rehabilitation. Furthermore, I am interested in gaining as much joint mobility as possible. This is for three reasons. First, the more mobile my joints, the less likely I am to be seriously injured while training. Remember, according to my DNA sequencing, I have a genetic predisposition for soft tissue injury. Secondly, I believe having a greater range of motion in one’s joints, leads to greater performance. Finally, while I have neither read it nor heard it anywhere else, I believe being flexible is an important aspect for any anti aging routine. In fact, flexibility should be a leading biomarker of aging. Becoming flexible may not lengthen one’s telomeres (though it may), but it will certainly make one feel physically better and the effects, I believe, would be even more profound for much older people.
The evening after I cycled a Century, I arrived in downtown Jersey City at Knead Therapeutic Massage for my appointment. Surprisingly, my leg muscles were not the least bit sore after my extremely long bike ride. I was admittedly saddle sore, my back and neck ached a little, but there was no muscle soreness whatsoever.
I had decided to purchase a custom massage, at the suggestion of Lucja, who informed me that the therapist would do what she thought would prove most beneficial for my body. Based upon what I had read, deep tissue massage interested me most . I had heard deep tissue massage involves deep massage of the muscles, joints, and tendons, can be quite painful, and releases a considerable amount of toxins trapped in one’s musculature.
Upon entering the Massage Center, I was surprised to meet my therapist, Carrie because she did not look like her photo. She was much prettier and positively glowed. I also noticed Carrie is a rather petite woman who cannot possibly weigh more than 100 lbs. As such, I did not think she’d be strong enough to massage me deep within my muscle, tissue, and joints. I had a feeling that the massage would be a cakewalk because this diminutive woman couldn’t possibly inflict any pain.
Carrie instructed me to go downstairs, disrobe, and lay on the massage table face up because she wanted to work on my chest and shoulders first based upon her initial observation of the way I was carrying my body. So, I took off all my clothes with the exception of my underwear, folded them up, and placed them on a dresser before laying on top of the very comfortable table. When Carrie entered the room, she recoiled in what seemed like horror, shielded her eyes and said, “Most people get under the sheet!”
I immediately began scrambling on top of the table, trying to frantically cover myself up and get under the sheet. I didn’t even know there was a sheet.
Carrie said, “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I’m ok with it.”
I was utterly humiliated. How was I supposed to know? It was my first massage!
It did not take long for me to be proven really wrong about Carrie’s ability to both massage deep within my muscles and inflict some serious pain. I could feel her working knots out of my muscles that have likely been there for eons. At first it hurt so good. Then it just hurt. Then it became almost excruciating and I found myself wishing she would move on to another area. Carrie’s expert massage was soon intolerably painful, but I remained determined to say nothing and swallow the pain. I would sooner die than let this little girl make me tap out!
Sure enough, she eventually moved on to other areas. I eventually grew quite used to the deep tissue massage and it stopped hurting. In fact, it stopped hurting so much and became so relaxing, that I actually fell asleep towards the end. It was among the most relaxing experiences of my life. As I walked back to my truck, I felt a little strange; almost drunk on relaxation.
I am now convinced that massage therapy (from a bonafide professional!), will be a critical component of my telomere lengthening protocol. I look forward to returning to see Carrie every couple of weeks.