Hands down, massage therapy is one of the best things you can do for your health and for the overall quality of your life. Massage therapy provides a variety of health benefits.
Chinese health literature dates massage therapy to at least 2700 B.C., when Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wên said in his book, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, “breathing exercises, massage of skin and flesh, and exercises of hands and feet” are fitting treatments for a variety of ailments.
Modern scientific studies validate this ancient wisdom and support the use of massage therapy as a safe, effective and natural way to treat mental and physical ailments. Today, healthcare professionals recognize at least ten health benefits of massage therapy.
Pain relief is one of the primary reasons people get massage therapy. Massage therapy is a holistic, noninvasive way to treat chronic pain from illness, cramps from excessive exercise, spasms, stiffness and body aches.
Massage therapy stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the “rest and digest system.” The parasympathetic nervous system conserves energy as it slows down your heart rate, increases gland and intestinal activity, and relaxes muscles in the digestive tract.
According to one study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, parasympathetic activity peaks during a 15-minute moderate-pressure massage.
Stress can negatively affect your health to cause illness and disease. Massage therapy can relieve stress to prevent negative health effects and reduce the risk for illness. A full body massage brings the mind and body into a relaxed, stress-free state. Massage therapy also increases the body’s production of endorphins, which are the stress- and pain-preventing hormones.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and other serious medical conditions. While weight, exercise and lifestyle choices greatly influence the development of high blood pressure, factors such as stress and anxiety can also lead to hypertension. Massage therapy eases stress, soothes anxiety, and melts away pain to reduce your risk for dangerous hypertension.
One study showed people who received a 15-minute massage three times per week had lower blood pressure readings than did study participants who did not receive a massage. The research also showed that blood pressure readings stayed lower 72 hours after the massage.
Massage therapy stimulates the circulation of oxygen-rich blood to damaged tissues to promote healing of strained muscles. Improved blood flow also carries away waste to improve healing even more.
Massage affects the levels of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that communication information throughout your brain and body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that elicits the “fight or flight” response, while serotonin and dopamine Serotonin and dopamine transmit messages of reward and pleasure.
In one study, massage therapy decreased cortisol levels by 31 percent while increasing serotonin by 28 percent and dopamine by 31 percent.
Massage therapy also stimulates the lymphatic system to improve immune response. The lymphatic system is similar to the circulatory system, except that it involves the flow of lymph, a body fluid that fights infection. A strong immune response helps you reduce your risk for catching an infectious disease and helps you get over an infection if you should develop one.
Very high or very low blood sugar levels have a detrimental effect on your body. Massage therapy can help regulate blood sugar in healthy people and in those with diabetes. One study showed that children with diabetes mellitus who received Swedish massage for 15 minutes, three days a week had significantly lower blood sugar levels than did children who did not enjoy a massage.
Tense muscles pull the body out of proper alignment, which can negatively affect posture and flexibility. Left unchecked, tense muscles can leave you with poor posture and a limited range of motion. Massage therapy improves your posture and flexibility by relaxing muscles and allowing the body to regain its natural, healthy posture.
When muscles spasm and contract involuntarily, muscle tissue can press against nerves that then send pain signals to the brain. Massage therapy relaxes muscle tissue and reduces this pressure against the nerves.