Updated: Mar 26, 2022
"Wellbeing" is a blog series where I interview and introduce you to inspiring people doing interesting things that can connect to our mental wellbeing.
Today, I'm excited for you to meet Kelly Barnes.
Hi! My name is Kelly Barnes and I am Registered Massage Therapist, here in St. John’s Newfoundland. I did my training and started my career as an RMT in Toronto Ontario, and moved back to my hometown this January just in time for Snowmagedon! After living and working in Toronto for almost 13 years I am happy to be back on the Island and growing my practice here.
Why is massage therapy an important tool for those with anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges?
While the psychological aspect of mental health is outside the scope of practice of Massage Therapists, Registered Massage Therapy is a great tool to help combat the physical and physiological symptoms of mental health struggles. Many studies have shown that Massage Therapy can lower the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure and heart rate, all of which can be raised either a little or significantly in those dealing with mental health challenges. Some studies have also shown it can help increase the “feel good” hormones of serotonin and oxytocin.
Our bodies have a built in “Fight or Flight” response mechanism that has been with us since the very beginning to help humans respond to threat or danger. While historically this was in place to help us react to threat or danger, Anxiety and other mental health struggles can cause a similar physical response. In times of anxiety we can often feel our muscles tense up, primed and ready for “fight or flight” when in reality there is no actual physical threat. With certain mental health struggles they can cause this same response, and we can stay tensed up for longer periods of time, when historically this response was only meant to last for short bursts to escape threat and danger. This consistent tensing of muscles can turn into chronic discomfort and this is where your RMT can help.
This kind of muscle tension can be held in various parts of the body depending on the person. In my experience thus far I find people commonly hold onto a lot in their neck and shoulders, hips and jaw.
What is TMJ massage and how does it work?
TMJ Massage is massage and/or joint play of the muscles surrounding the Temporomandibular joint, or “jaw joint” and even work on the joint itself. A lot of people tend to clench their jaw in times of stress or if they suffer from anxiety (or other mental illness) and can even affect people who have structural issues with their jaw. A TMJ treatment focuses on helping relieve pain and tension of the jaw area and can include intra-oral massage, face massage, neck/shoulder and scalp massage. In my TMJ treatments I tend to treat all those areas throughout our treatment plan as they can all be affected/culprits to jaw pain and even evolve into headaches.
And yes you read that right Intra-Oral! Which means inside the mouth. I will wear a medical glove (and these days mask and face sheild) and actually release some deeper muscles surrounding the jaw via the mouth. This is definitely not a comfortable or relaxing treatment but it is a very effective treatment in reducing jaw pain and tension and increasing active range of motion of the jaw, and even reducing headaches. Though it can sound a little different and scary, I thoroughly walk you through the process, we establish hand signals and as always you can stop at any time. It is definitely a different sensation but so worth the feeling of space in the jaw post treatment.
What do you wish people knew about wellness and mental wellbeing?
I think wellness can look like a lot of different things for different people, but I personally feel Massage Therapy can be a really important part of that journey. I feel the benefits and relief you feel mentally and physically, mind body and soul are immeasurable.
I would love to educate people who feel that Massage Therapy is just “treat”, you get on Mother’s Day etc. that it is so much more and an important part of your health care and wellness journey. Yes it can feel amazing, but it can also be very healing and can help with pain relief which is super important if you have ever struggled with physical pain. I would encourage everyone to give it a try and to not give up if you didn’t love that “therapist you had one time”. It is definitely a personal treatment and it is important to find the right fit, and when you do I think you will see the benefits first hand.
What is something simple we can do every day to prevent tension/stress from building up in our bodies?
Honestly? Breathing would be my number one! Deep Diaphragmatic Breaths can be an amazing tool for calming the mind and nervous system and even help with pain management. Yes we breathe daily, but not deep, focused, aware breaths. It can really turn a moment around fast. And also stretching!! I am a big fan of both and both are big parts of how I treat. I have some videos and highlights of how to breathe and stretch on my Instagram.
Where can we find you and learn more about you?
You can find me practicing out of Core Physiotherapy at 90 O’Leary Ave, Suite 205 in the Parson’s Building.
We offer offer convenient online booking and you can find the perfect time that works for your schedule by visiting
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