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The Gaia Centre for Holistic Therapy,

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It's Official!

Yes it's official and it's all over the papers: -


Massage is good for your heart.


And that's not the only benefit...


HOW A PAIN IN THE NECK COULD BE BAD FOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE

Adapted from articles in the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail

massage articles

Do you enjoy massage? If you do, here is some good news.

PLEASANT WAY TO PREVENT HEART ATTACKS

For many of us, it is the best way to unwind after a hard day's work. But scientists believe a regular neck massage could also prove a life-saver. It can lower abnormally high blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease - without the need for any drugs.

High blood pressure, which often shows no symptoms, doubles the risk of dying from one of the conditions. But a chance discovery in the lab helped University of Leeds scientists to show how the treatment for a stiff neck could do wonders for your blood pressure.

Chiropractors have long known that tackling pain and stiffness by 'cracking' the neck through manipulation can also lower blood pressure but the reasons were never clear.

Now a team led by Professor Jim Deuchars has examined pathways between the neck and the brain to show how the neck muscles could play a crucial role in controlling blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. They found that signals from the neck play a key role in helping the brain maintain blood pressure, heart rate and breathing when we change posture, for instance by standing up.

Their study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, provides the first evidence for a role for these connections in influencing brain regions, which control body functions that we don't need to think about, such as breathing and blood pressure. When these signals stop - perhaps because the neck is stiff and not being moved - we can suffer from problems with blood pressure and balance.The area of the brain where the signals from the neck terminate were first identified by ‘Godfather of Neuroscience’ Ramon Y Cajal, more than 100 years ago, though its function was not understood. What happened after these signals arrived remained a largely-overlooked area of research until new techniques allowed the Leeds team to take the work forward.

Their work began by chance, as Prof Deuchars explained: “Cells in the area that receive neck signals jumped out at us when we labelled sections with particular markers. We wanted to know how these cells were organised and the other brain regions to which they were connected.”

The team, which includes researchers from Japan and Hungary, found a link between these cells and the nucleus tractus solitarius, an area of the brain that is pivotal in control of autonomic functions - body functions under unconscious control. They propose that nervous signals from the neck could play a key role in ensuring that adequate blood supply is maintained to the brain as we change posture, such as from lying down to standing up. Where such signalling fails, we can suffer problems with balance and blood pressure.

The findings offer a clear rationale for manipulative treatments: “Reports from chiropractic journals say that manipulating the neck region helps to reduce blood pressure in some people,” Prof Deuchars explained. “By identifying the pathways we can see why these treatments might work and it could also explain why some people suffering whiplash injuries may experience a change in their blood pressure.”

PREVALENCE

At any one time one-in-10 people has neck pain - often caused by stress affects more than six million Brits - and three-quarters of the population will suffer it at some time in their lives. High blood pressure claims 60,000 lives a year and is becoming more common as we work longer hours and eat more fatty and salty food, and because of changing lifestyles with people spending more time sitting down, working with computers, watching TV, playing video games and driving. (Traditionally, the causes of blood pressure have been linked to excess weight, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, dietary salt intake and nutrition patterns with low intake of fruit and vegetables and a high intake of saturated fat). In April 2007, the London School of Economics warned the stress of modern life could lead to an epidemic of heart disease, with half of Britons suffering from high blood pressure by 2025.

This breakthrough could also explain why those with whiplash injuries can experience a change in their blood pressure. It also contributes to the understanding of postural hypotension - fainting, which can be caused by moving the head too fast e.g. from lying down to standing up. The neck muscles could be part of the system that normally prevents this from happening by sending signals to the brain upon neck movement that posture has changed. The researchers say nervous signals from the neck may play a key role in ensuring that adequate blood supply is maintained to the brain as we change posture, Where such signalling fails, we can suffer problems with balance and blood pressure.

More research is now needed to see which sensory nerve fibres and precisely which cells are involved in the process. Amongst other things, the team would now like to know what other brain regions the neck muscle termination site connects to. They believe that there are many malfunctions associated with whiplash injuries to the neck that could be better understood by unravelling these connections. They hope that this knowledge could be used to design more effective treatments for such injuries.

For further information:

Jim Deuchars is Professor of Systems Neuroscience in the University of Leeds Institute of Membrane and Systems Biology, based in the Faculty of Biological Sciences. There is more about his work at: http://www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk/staff/profile.php?tag=Deuchars_J

The original article was published by the Journal of Neuroscience, 115, 495-510 http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/full/27/31/8324 - (Requires a subscription to the Journal)