Ronit Mor, ND
Most people still view massage as a luxury item. They place it on their wish rather than todo list. But massage should be considered as a necessity just like eating healthy and working out.
Massage therapy has been employed to promote physical and emotional health since the earliest human civilizations. The earliest indication of massage was between 3,000 and 2,500 BC in Egypt and China.
In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits of this ancient healing practice. Here are a few reasons to pick up the phone and schedule your next massage:
Massage May Help You Sleep Better
Quality sleep is vital to health and wellness. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions—such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression—which threaten our nation’s health.”
Indulging in a massage at the end of a tough week isn’t just a nice way to wind down. If you’re kept up at night worrying about financial problems, a rocky relationship, or other stressful issues, a massage may be the key to sounder sleep. According to numerous studies, people who receive regular massages spend more time in deep sleep, which is the restorative stage of the sleep cycle.
Massage May Decrease Social Anxiety, Depression, and Stress
One particularly remarkable benefit of massage is its ability to induce oxytocin release. Research has found that this hormone can decrease social anxiety, depression, and stress, while increasing empathy, generosity, self-esteem, and optimism, and alleviating psychological distress.
A review published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that regular massage sessions decrease cortisol levels by as much as 31%, and increase serotonin levels by 28% and dopamine levels by 31%. These neurological changes may explain why people with depression and anxiety who receive regular massage treatments report decreased symptoms.
Massage May Boost Your Immune System
A growing body of research indicates massage therapy increases the activity level of the body’s white blood cells that work to combat viruses. For example, in a controlled study composed of HIV-positive adolescents, participants who received massage therapy showed enhanced immune function, including increased white blood cells knowns as natural killer (NK) cells, which provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells.
An additional randomized study found women with stage 1 and 2 breast cancer may benefit from massage therapy for enhancing dopamine and serotonin while also increasing NK cells and lymphocytes, which work to strengthen the immune system and cognitive function during sickness.
Massage May Relieve Both Muscle Soreness and Chronic Pain
Multiple studies have found massage therapy helps reduce specific pain and soreness. A 2014 study examined the effects of massage therapy on relieving muscle soreness after exercise. “Our study validates the value of massage in exercise and injury, which has been previously recognized but based on minimal data,” said Nina Cherie Franklin, postdoctoral fellow in physical therapy and first author of the study. “It also suggests the value of massage outside of the context of exercise.”
A 2011 study explored how massage compares with medical care in relieving chronic back pain among 400 people ages 20 to 65. The massage group received hour-long massages weekly for 10 weeks. Afterward, almost 40% reported their pain was better or gone, compared with just 4% of a control group who were treated with anti-inflammatory medication.
These days it feels like we’re all marathoners in the game of life, running nonstop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Remember: when life is a sport, massage can help you perform at your peak!