3 Wellness Enhancing Benefits of Massage Therapy
There are countless proven and perceived benefits of massage therapy, whether you are receiving Massage Therapy as a treatment on its own, as part of a regular maintenance program or as a compliment to Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, Personal Training or Clinical Pilates.
Taking time away from your computer, phone and other life stressors and simply focusing on your breath, listening to your body’s subtle messages of vitality, joy and relaxation can help to restore your mind and body.
The ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Indian, Greek and Roman civilizations all reference the use of massage techniques as playing an important role in the healing process. There are numerous proven and perceived benefits of massage such as improved sleep, reduced muscle tension, improved joint mobility, improved posture, better lymphatic drainage, decreased stress hormones, reduced inflammation and pain along with improved immune function.
How Massage Therapy Can Enhance Your Wellness
1. Improved athletic and fitness recovery
The ancient Greek athletes used massage pre- and post-exercise, a theory still practiced today, with the aim being to reduce muscle soreness and swelling, and to promote tissue healing, allowing the athlete to recover and continue with training.
A decrease in swelling and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) by 30% was found in a 2005 study stating that “a massage performed post exercise but before DOMS develops can alleviate soreness, no matter how the massage is performed” 1 .
Interestingly, the upper arm circumference was measured pre- and post-massage and the treated arm had a significantly smaller increase in circumference, demonstrating a prevention of swelling.
2. Improved immune function
In a 2010 preliminary study by Rapaport et al, a 45 minute massage therapy vs light touch therapy group found that “the data does support the notion that a single session of Swedish Massage therapy may have fairly profound acute effects on the immune system” 2 compared to baseline results and a light touch control group.
There was a decrease in cytokines, interleukins, cortisol and vasopressin, and an increase in the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells). This translates to less stress hormones, less inflammatory mediators, and more infection fighting white blood cells. Meaning that massage therapy can help to enhance your immune system function.
3. Shift towards a more Parasympathetic (Relaxation) state
Are you stressed? Do you live in sympathetic overdrive?
Our autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic nervous system (“relax and digest”). When we are stressed, we activate our sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) which results in effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, decreased movement of our digestive system, and stimulates the release of adrenaline.
A 2009 study by Diego and Field from The International Journal of Neuroscience reported that the first half hour of moderate pressure massage calms the sympathetic nervous system, and shifts the body to a more parasympathetic state vs the light pressure group which provoked a shift towards a sympathetic response 3.
This means that after a moderate pressure massage, the body is more relaxed in a “relax and digest” state versus being stressed in a “fight or flight” state. This has positive effects such as lowering the heart rate and blood pressure, improving the digestive system and inhibiting the release of adrenaline.
Massage Therapy does not need to be perceived as a luxury but rather a necessity for your physical and mental well being.
1. Zainuddin Z, Newton M, Sacco P, Nosaka K. Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function. Journal of Athletic Training. 2005;40(3):174-180.
2. Rapaport MH, Schettler P, Bresee C. A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16(10):1079-1088.
3. Miguel A. Diego & Tiffany Field (2009) Moderate Pressure Massage Elicits a Parasympathetic Nervous System Response, International Journal of Neuroscience, 119:5, 630-638