Contrary to what you might guess, “interoception” is not the end of the world, or a new Hollywood blockbuster.
Interoception can be defined as internal perception, meaning it is the internal sensations of your body. This would include feelings of muscle tension, soreness, heart rate, breathing or any other internal sensation. Psychologists have been studying the link between interoception and well being. This has lead to an understanding that interoception is likely to play an important role in homeostasis, the autoregulation of your body’s functions, which is essential to good health.
As massage therapists, we have an important role in helping our clients connect and build positive interpretations of their bodily sensations. Anxiety about a tight back, for example, can lead to heightened levels pain and we now know that anxiety and fear related to back injury leads to increases in pain and disability.
When performing massage, manual therapy and exercises with our clients, we can help to build positive connections with internal perception or interoception. Mindfulness practices that focus on internal sensations in a calm state will improve interoceptive awareness and positive associations with the body.
Why do we Care About Interoception?
Well the research indicates that positive interoception is helpful in reducing pain. Increases in positive interoceptive awareness possibly explains why massage can work on chronic pain, which is pain that is derived from nervous system sensitivity, rather tissue damage.
This is Good News, Right?
If you aren’t already aware of the term “interoception” then maybe you should be. This knowledge (backed by research) is one way we can keep evolving as massage therapists by exploring and understanding this concept and treating more effectively.
For more information on interoception and health, have a read of this plain language summary of the topic from the journal Frontiers in Psychology.