Everyone who goes for a massage expects to feel better, more relaxed and rejuvenated afterwards, but scientific studies show there’s a good reason for that massages may actually change the body’s chemistry and benefit patients with health issues beyond soreness or soft-tissue injuries.
In a study recently performed at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in California USA, researchers examined blood samples taken from patients before and after a 45-minute massage. The later samples showed biological benefits ranging from an increase in the number of white blood cells to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol.
Other studies are looking into the medical benefits of massage therapy in more detail, specifically how regular massage increases the body’s serotonin, reduces the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. These areas are linked to improved sleep, a sense of well-being and reduced pain.
One of these studies reports that a single massage can produce measurable changes in the immune system and endocrine system of healthy adults. It involved 29 healthy adults who each received a 45-minute massage and 24 healthy adults who had a 45-minute session of light-touch massage, a much milder exercise that served as a comparison to the more vigorous Thai massage. Blood samples were taken before the massage began and at regular intervals up to one hour after the massage was completed.
The study found several changes in the blood tests of the massage group that indicated a benefit to the immune system. For example, massage caused sizeable decreases in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that contributes to aggressive behaviour, as well as small decreases in cortisol. The massage participants also had an increase in lymphocytes, cells that help the immune system defend the body from harmful substances.
This research and many other clinical studies show that massage doesn’t only feel good, it can also be good for you!