We all know how great it feels to get a massage. After all, it’s one of the most common ways we help each other to feel better: a foot massage after a physically demanding chore or a neck rub to help relax after a stressful day at the office.
You may not realize that regular massage, when provided by a licensed massage therapist, has many natural benefits for your physical and emotional well-being. Here are five health benefits of massage therapy you can start enjoying today.
Back, Joint, and Muscle Pain
Massage therapy for back, joint, or muscle pain probably seems like an obvious solution. But you may be surprised at how effective it can be, especially for patients suffering from chronic issues.
One study showed that massage therapy significantly improved not only back pain, but disability as well, after 10 weeks. This improvement is compared to patients who used conventional medicine to treat their pain.
Similarly, patients with osteoarthritis in the knees saw improvements not only in pain and stiffness, but improved mobility in the knee as well. This benefit was realized with only 1 or 2 massages a week.
Anxiety, Depression, and Stress
Multiple research studies have shown that massage therapy reduces your cortisol levels by as much as 54%. Cortisol is associated with many of the symptoms of stress, including elevated blood pressure and reduced immune system functioning.
In addition, massage improves the serotonin and dopamine levels in the body, two of the body’s primary “feel good” hormones. Another study found that massage therapy significantly reduces Arginine Vasopressin hormone, a chemical believed to promote aggressive behavior.
Even more powerful, a study of women with breast cancer found that receiving regular massage therapy had immediate benefits. The therapy improved depression and anger issues and elevated their energy levels. It even increased the body’s own immune defense against the cancer!
Boosting Immune System
It’s no surprise that massage helps boost the immune system. Massage therapy has been known as a natural way to build and maintain health for thousands of years.
Modern science is finally catching on: one study found that 45 minutes of massage caused significant increase in lymphocytes (white blood cells integral in defending the body from disease).
This is obviously great news for people looking to fend off colds, flus, and even seasonal allergies. Incredibly, the benefits are also available to people with severely compromised immune systems: massage therapy provides a boost to patients who are HIV-positive!
Massage therapy has been shown to decrease the frequency and duration of headaches. Among the participants in the study, the average number of headaches dropped from over 6 per week to just 2 per week. The improvement was immediate and continued for as long as the patients were receiving regular massage therapy sessions.
A separate study of patients with chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) found that massage therapy provided immediate relief for pain, as well as improved the patients’ heart rate variability (a symptom of chronic stress).
BONUS: Infant Sleep & Well-being
New mothers (and fathers) often experience back pain, stress, and sleep problems due to the demands of caring for their baby. Certainly, regular massage therapy sessions would benefit Mom greatly!
The baby can also be helped with massage therapy. A study of almost 600 infants found that the babies who were massaged:
- cried less,
- slept more, and
- had lower levels of stress hormones.
A happier, sleepier baby will also go a long ways towards helping moms and dads with their stress levels!
Considering all these benefits of massage therapy (and there are others, including digestive and sleep issues), it’s clear that regular massage should be an integral part of any wellness plan.
And it’s definitely a “doctor” visit you can look forward to every time!
Suffering from chronic aches and pains? In addition to massage, here are other natural ways you can alleviate your suffering.