Benefits of Massage

Perhaps you’re a more left-sided brain type of person.  You can’t help but wonder if there are scientific benefits to massages.  You’re not alone.

Today, I’ll present a list of benefits that come from receiving a massage.

According to American Massage Therapy Association(AMTA), 72 percent of people claimed to receive a massage because of medical or stress related reason.  These include:

  • Pain relief
  • soreness
  • stiffness or spasms
  • injury
  • migraines
  • general well-being

72 percent is a pretty convincing amount of massage recipients who believe in the benefits of a massage.  So yes, there are a ton of benefits to getting a massage.

Let’s dive deeper into the benefits one by one.

Relieve Stress

Stress is our body’s way of handling change.  Through evolutionary measures, our bodies realized we need to react to this sudden change by either confronting or running away also known as fight-or-flight response.  During this state, our bodies release chemicals into our blood.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing but for our case we’ll only refer to the negative effects continuous stress has on our bodies.

So how does a massage relief stress?

Decreases Heart Rate

While stress increases heart rate to ready the body for action, massages do the exact opposite.  Clinical research has shown that both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure is reduced in a mere 1 and 1/2 hour massage.

When your body is tense and your muscles are contracted, it’s hard for the blood in your veins to flow properly to your heart.  When a masseuse or a masseur is kneading your body, tensions dissolve leaving you in a relaxed state of being.

Decreases Cortisol

Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone; it’s like an alarm for your body.

You know that feeling when your alarm wakes you up in the morning?  Now imagine being woken up twenty times a day.  It sounds stressful doesn’t it?

So, in order to decrease stress, you need to decrease cortisol.  Massages does just that.

A research done by the International Journal of Neuroscience(IJN) indicates 31% of reduction in cortisol level for depressed patients after massage therapy.

Increases Serotonin and Dopamine

Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter often associated with well-being and happiness.

Dopamines are neurotransmitters that are responsible for sending signals from nerve cells to other nerve cells.  The death of neurons that produce Dopamine are associated with Parkinsons disease.

In the same research published by the IJN, it reports an average of 28% increase in serotonin and an average 31% increase in levels of dopamine.

Sleep Better

If you or your loved one suffers from insomnia, you know it can take a huge toll on the quality of your life.

Not getting enough sleep is linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity and depression according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to a study done by AMTA, the group of adults with low back pain that were given massage therapy, as opposed to relaxation therapy, reported significant less pain, depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance.

The National Institute of Health(NIH) conducted a similar experiment with patients who underwent cardiopulmonary artery bypass graft surgery.  These are patients that suffered from the narrowing of the coronary arteries–blood vessels that carry essential nutrients to the heart.

In this study, the group given massage therapy reported much less fatigue.  The probability(p) or significance level was an astounding 2%!  This means that there is a 98% chance that the premise of massages helping one sleep better is true.

It should come as no surprise that many people fall asleep while getting a massage either by a professional or a chair.

Increase range of motion

Range of motion(ROM) is important because a sedentary life– meaning you are not physically active — is not healthy for your body.  In fact research has shown that in order to relieve arthritis, one must become more active.

Muscle tightness and restricted ROM is associated with sports injuries.  There’s a reason why your track coach always stretched before practicing!

In many ways a massage is very similar to stretching but better.

Improves Blood Circulation

Your circulatory system transport nutrients and waste throughout the body.  When it isn’t working properly, your heart needs to work harder.  It’s very important to make the job easier for the heart; it is the leading cause of death for men and women.

So how do massage help blood circulation?

In the most simple explanation possible, think of a tube of lotion.  The more you press on the end, the more comes out from the opening.  A massage has similar effect on the body’s blood circulation.

A study done by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago supports this claim.  They measured the brachial artery flow mediated dilation(FMD) – a way to measure vascular health – in test subjects.  The control group consisted of subjects who just exercised and subjects who just received massages, while the experiment group consisted of exercise and massage.

The result:

  • The only exercise group showed reduction in blood flow measured in 90 minutes, 24, 48, and 72 hours
  • The exercise and massage- group showed improvement in blood flow based on FMD
  • The group that just received a massage showed just as much improvement in blood flow as the exercise-and massage-group

Those are some conclusive results.

Better blood circulation means more vital nutrients for your joints and muscles.  In turn, this means better flexibility, mobility, and range of motion.

Relieve Fibromyalgia pain

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue; it is often associated with:

  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Tender points
  • Migraine

It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects 5 million Americans reported by the National Institutes of Health(NIH).

Based on a study done by NIH, massage therapy lowered disease, pain ratings, and rated fewer tender points.

What types of massages can specifically be used to relieve Fibromyalgia pain?

According to Sharon Muzion, a Registered Nurse at the National Fibromyalgia Chronis Pain Association(NFMCPA) it is an eclectic massage:

[Eclectic massage] combines trigger point therapy and myofascial release technique with relaxation techniques—in other words, long soothing strokes with mild rocking; then when the muscles are warm, a deeper pressure with deeper friction strokes over the knots to break down the fibers, release the toxins, and reduce the pain they create.

The overwhelming choice at – the leading massage app – is a Swedish massage.  A Swedish massage incorporates more of the western philosophy which heavily takes in consideration anatomy and physiology.  The technique includes kneading, long strokes that follow the blood returning to the heart, and circular movements.  Overall the goal for a Swedish massage is whole body relaxation and tend to be softer then a deep tissue massage.

A popular vote according to the /fibromyalgia subreddit on reddit is deep tissue massage:

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