Did you know that more people have massage for medical reasons than relaxation? That’s right. I’ve written about this before, but I’m revisiting it because evidence continues to mount regarding the health benefits of massage.
The American Massage Therapy Association has compiled new research from a variety of sources around the globe. Here are their findings:
When the stress hormone cortisol was measured in a group of people before and after massage, researchers found post-massage levels decreased by 50%. Furthermore, two neurotransmitters that make us feel good – serotonin and dopamine – increased. For this reason, massage is touted as the therapy of choice to help people with anxiety disorders, increase calm before surgery, and decrease stress and depression in cancer patients. In a recent Turkish study, back massages given during chemo treatments significantly reduced anxiety and fatigue. Conclusion: Massage reduces cortisol levels and increases serotonin and dopamine production.
Chronic low-back pain
Most of us have had low-back pain at some time. It’s called chronic if it lasts more than three months. A recent study documented the fact that people with chronic low-back pain who got a one-hour Swedish massage once a week for 10 weeks were able to function significantly better and recovered significantly faster than people who relied only on standard medical care. They also needed less over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. More research found massage helps with nerve pain, including fibromyalgia, and pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. Conclusion: Massage significantly speeds recovery and reduces pain, even fibromyalgia pain.
High blood pressure
Three 10-minute Swedish massages a week for a total of 10 sessions helped better lower the blood pressure in women who were pre-hypertensive. This was compared to patients who relaxed in the same environment but with no massage. In even more recent research, 35 older adults saw reduced blood pressure and better stability after therapeutic massage. Conclusion: Massage reduces high blood pressure.
In a new study of premature babies, the activity levels of natural killer T cells increased after massage therapy. T cells, by the way, fight off viruses and tumors. These babies also gained weight faster compared to infants in the control group who didn’t get massages. In the past, preliminary science suggested full-body massage also boosted immune function of women with breast cancer. Conclusion: Massage enhances immune function.