More often firefighters, EMTs and first responders are turning to complimentary care such as massage therapy to balance the extreme highs and lows they face on a daily basis, as well as to improve their strength, flexibility, and focus—something their jobs demand.
Common trouble spots like hamstrings, back, neck, and hip flexors which can be tight or sore due to the weight of the gear they have to carry, the tools they use, and the physically demanding nature of spending 24-hour shifts battling and responding to emergencies can impede and slow down a responder. That physical encumberment only ads to the mental and emotional stresses that come with the work.
After noticing the majority of my friends working as first responders had similarities in physical aches and pains, as well as difficulties managing stress I decided to start a targeted campaign at my local departments. I wanted to share with you 2 things I have learned working with emergency responders:
1. Breathing - Mindful breathing exercises matter:
Dramatic fluctuations in adrenaline and the nervous system are a fact of life for firefighters, and a sudden, extreme surge in stress hormones can occur in mere seconds. However, after the sympathetic nervous system onslaught that happens when responders are called to action, there’s a parasympathetic crash that follows, which can leave firefighters feeling exhausted, apathetic, and even irritable. This is where the importance of breathing becomes crucial: Proper and focused breathwork bridges the connection between mind and body, slows the body’s physical reactivity, and calms the mind.
2. Flexibility and focus help them perform better on the job.
In an intense environment where seconds can be crucial, agility and concentration are hugely important. Massage helps firefighters and first responders increase their flexibility, which can help them handle the physical demands of the job while also preventing potential injuries and alleviating pain. Some clients aren’t even aware of their aches and pains until I address certain parts of the body and mindfulness techniques. A monthly 60-90 minute session can be the difference maker on alleviating recurring pains and injuries.
These men and women work tirelessly for everyone else through highs and lows often bearing the burden of pains, aches and stress with our complaint. In addition to massage, regular strength training, consistent healthy nutrition and yoga only compound the positive results.