Many think of massage as just a feel-good way to indulge or relax, but studies prove massage can be a powerful tool to help take charge of both your physical health and mental well-being, naturally.
STRESS, ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION: Stress relief and pain management are two of the better known benefits of massage therapy, but did you know receiving massage and practicing deep breathing or visualization during a massage can assist in managing anxiety and depression? Massage reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol resulting in elevated spirits and often lower blood pressure. It can also boost serotonin and dopamine which are the neurotransmitters involved in controlling one’s mood.
PAIN MANAGEMENT AND INCREASED MOBILITY: Experts in pain management, the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society now include massage as one of their recommendations for treating low back pain according to guidelines published in 2007. According to a 2011 study massage helped people in pain feel better and function better than people who didn’t receive massage. “We found that benefits of massage are about as strong as those reported for other effective treatments: medications, acupuncture, exercise and yoga,” Dan Shirkin, PhD, lead author of this study, said in a press release.
In my own 15 years as a licensed massage practitioner, I have witnessed decreased stiffness and pain, as well as increased range of motion in people with osteoarthritis in all areas of the body. I also successfully treated my own carpal tunnel syndrome with self-massage techniques years before I started my professional career, and can happily say, it has not returned!
IMPROVED SLEEP: A calming bodywork session can also help you spend more time asleep, according to research from Miami University‘s Touch Research Institute, “Massage helps people spend more time in deep sleep, the restorative stage in which your body barely moves,“ the institute’s founder Tiffany field, Ph.D. , told More magazine in 2012. In one study of people with fibromyalgia, “30-minute massages three times a week for five weeks resulted in nearly an hour more of sleep, plus deeper sleep,” she said.
IMPROVED IMMUNE FUNCTION: Research over the past couple of years has found that massage therapy boosts immune system activity in some cancer patients. A 2010 study, perhaps the largest study on massage’s effects on the immune system, found that 45 minutes of Swedish massage significantly impacted white blood cell activity, increased blood flow and detoxed the body by encouraging lymphatic drainage. The bodies lymph system is the circulatory system located directly under the skin that carries toxins out of end away from cells so that nutrients can travel in.
SO MUCH MORE: Massage has improved asthma symptoms in children and increased grip strength in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Massaging premature babies has helped with crucial weight gain and a specialized abdominal massage helps with colic and constipation.
Massage is great to break up scar tissue after surgeries or injuries and helps a healthy body recover quickly after a vigorous workout. The gift of a massage is endless. Studies have even shown giving a massage has some of the same benefits as getting one, so it’s a win-win!
While massage may have once had a reputation as a guilty pleasure, new studies are showing it has a wide variety of tangible health benefits.
By Kaera Anzalone
Loomis Country Living Magazine