The Benefits of Massage Therapy
By Kylie Thompson BA, CPT
What can be better than a really good massage? Massage therapy has to be one of life’s unspoken but most luxurious pleasures, right up there with the perfect cup of tea. Ok, maybe you like coffee, but you get the idea.
Massage therapy has been a part of major medicine for centuries and it’s easy to understand why; it feels great! Anyone who has had a massage, even a hand or foot rub, knows that. What you may not have known is that a massage has more benefits other than making you feel relaxed or energized after a full body session.
Just in case you need more reasons to justify getting a massage, I’ve put together a list of health benefits that massage therapy can offer you.
Boost Immunity – A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that massage boosts patients’ white blood cell count, which plays a large role in defending the body from disease. Another study found that weekly massage therapy increased the immune cell levels and white blood cells in every single subject involved.
Improve Digestion – Massage activates stretch receptors in the intestines that loosen the intestinal tract. Massage also reduces tension in the abdomen and offers relief from the discomfort and pain of chronic constipation. Biodynamic Massage Therapy focuses on re-regulating the digestive system.
Improve Range of Motion – Whether you have tight muscles, poor posture, or frozen shoulder, massage can help you maintain flexibility and range of motion by working the muscles, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments, and by stimulating the production and retention of the natural lubricants between the connective tissue fibers.
Improve Sleep Quality – Lack of sleep has been linked to a large number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, depression, and obesity. During a massage, your body will naturally release serotonin. This is the body’s way of regulating mood balances and is critical for increasing deep sleep and relaxation, thus reducing stress, anxiety levels, pain reduction, and even by reducing the stress hormone cortisol.
Improve Cardiovascular Health – A multitude of recent research shows a direct correlation between massage therapy and improved cardiovascular health. One study showed how massage helped reduce blood pressure in pre-hypertensive women for as long as 72 hours after their massage, while another saw those that received regular Swedish massage therapy over a period of four weeks had significantly lower blood pressure than those who did not have a massage.
Decrease Migraines and Headaches – Tension headaches respond remarkably well to myofascial trigger point massage. Therapy focuses on easing the muscle tension, reducing the muscle spasms and releasing tension in the head. When this happens, there will be less pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in your head. This increases the overall oxygen-rich circulation of blood and eases the pain. When done on a regular basis, you’ll find that the headaches slowly start becoming a thing of the past.
Decrease Arthritis Pain – The chronic inflammation that hallmarks arthritis causes damage to the cartilage of the joints. Studies have found that regular massage therapy reduced pain and stiffness, and improves grip strength in adults with arthritis. A 2018 study, which assigned 200 patients with knee OA into one of three treatment groups, found those receiving a one-hour whole-body massage weekly experienced significant improvement in pain and mobility after eight weeks compared to those receiving light touch or standard care.
Decrease Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Massage improves subjective perception of and function for those with carpal tunnel syndrome. One study found a decrease in pain and patients had improved grip strength after six weeks of twice-weekly massages. I would suggest talking with your doctor or massage therapist to see if six weeks of massage would be beneficial for you over carpal tunnel surgery.
Lessen Effects of Dementia – There are several benefits massage therapy can offer people with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, including increased body awareness and alertness, as well as a reduction in the feelings of confusion and anxiety to help calm agitation. Although more studies need to be done, a 2002 study by R. Remington on the effect calming music and hand massage had on agitated behavior in persons with dementia found that both calm music and hand massage reduced verbal agitation, and the benefit was sustained for up to one hour.
Lessen Fibromyalgia Pain – Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by pain, fatigue and tenderness. Research has shown massage therapy can reduce pain, lower anxiety levels, improve sleep quality, decrease stiffness, and lower fatigue levels. And according to the National Fibromyalgia Association, they reported that about 40% of sufferers have used massage as part of their treatment plan.
Decrease Stress and Lessen Nausea for Cancer Patients – Cancer has many stressful physical, emotional, and social effects and the side effects of chemotherapy of nausea and vomiting are often severe. While there are some drugs that can help stop the nausea, these may not work. Massage therapy has been shown to be effective for relieving anxiety, depression, as well as nausea. One study found that those with breast cancer, who were undergoing chemotherapy, had significantly reduced nausea compared to the control group.
These are not the only perks of getting a massage. Studies are coming out every day with more benefits of massage therapy for those with acute or chronic conditions and more are choosing massage in addition to their current treatment plans. Please note that it could take more than one session to see a change and as always, please consult your doctor and your massage therapist before seeking treatment. The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day. –Hippocrates
The Benefits of Massage Therapy