Can Massage Offer More Benefits Than Just Relaxation?

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Picture the scene. You’ve scheduled a relaxing self-care day at the spa—the scent of calming essential oils fills the room, the sound of tranquil music lulls you into relaxation as your massage therapist works their magic. Good for you for taking the time to relax, an often-overlooked, yet essential part of daily wellness.Massage’s therapeutic benefits go far beyond just chilling out though. Let’s take a look at the myriad of whole-body benefits you may receive from massage.

Mental And Physical Wellness Benefits of Massage Combined

It starts at you feeling relaxed, but the mental and physical wellness effects keep stretching. When we receive massage, the superficial layers of our skin are contacted, activating a cellular response that helps release our body’s natural pain reducing cells. Massage therapy can help regulate the fight or flight response by optimizing balance of norepinephrine, epinephrine and cortisol. When this response is invoked, cortisol levels, a steroid hormone involved in inflammation is also regulated. The takeaway? When inflammation is reduced, our immune system quiets and we are more likely to be able to relax in both body and mind.

Because immune system fluctuations are related to our emotional wellness, it has been found that regular massage therapy can benefit those experiencing both pain, soreness, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness due to rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, cancer and chronic fatigue. For nodular-forming rheumatoid arthritis, patients have also reported reduced nodulation and reduced pain associated with nodulation with targeted and whole-body massage therapy.

Pediatric Cancer Can Benefit From Massage

Human connection instead of pharmaceutical medication has been shown to help children heal. Children who experience health concerns directly and indirectly related to cancer benefit from massage therapy. Pain, anxiety, fear and depression are all associated with childhood cancers. For instance, massage therapy employed during bone marrow aspiration was successfully used to help ease anxiety and fear. Because pain can pop up at any time and pharmaceutical interventions often come with unwanted side effects, massage therapy is a gentle therapeutic procedure that children with cancer report benefiting from.

Massage Therapy And Pregnancy

Massage extends it stress-reducing benefits to pregnancy and those wishing to become pregnant as well. Massage has been shown to be a healthy modality in every stage of pregnancy, from assisting with aches and pains, to reducing headaches, alleviating morning sickness, GERD and GI concerns and even in in-vitro situations. Massage therapy was reviewed for all of its beneficial influences in the Journal of Complementary Therapy and Clinical Practice and noted that in-vitro practices were one of the first, well-researched areas of massage’s potential for therapeutic influence. It was speculated that “improved embryo implantation may have related to relaxation, reduced stress as well as decreased uterine contractions and possibly increased blood flow to that region” according to the study’s authors.

Another significant finding was that massage therapy helped reduce premature birth rates. By having mother’s receive regular massage and therefore reducing depression before birth, birth weight increased.

How about that labor pain? In a study that followed a control group of laboring women, not only were pain and anxiety reduced, but shorter labor times were observed as well with the use of massage therapy.

The Benefits of Massage On Autism

Autism has been shown to affect 1 in 59 children here in the US each year and is 4 times more likely to affect boys. Sleep disturbances can be a major issue that individuals with autism experience. Reviews of non-pharmacological and non-behavioral reports showed that positive outcomes that reduced sleeping issues resulted from the use of regular massage therapy. To record the benefits, oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love hormone” was shown to rise following massage. Surprisingly and most noteworthy is that when massage was withdrawn from the control group and the expected outcome was to see oxytocin levels decrease, they did not. This suggests that the benefits of massage therapy for autism are lasting and can be considered an effective sleep-improving modality.

Post-Operative Benefits of Massage Therapy

By now, many have either learned of or experienced the benefits of massage following an orthopedic procedure. Studies of regular massage on patients experiencing surgical scars found that scar tissue was reduced contributing to improved healing of associated tissues and recovery time was sped up in some cases.

For patients with acute myocardial infarction, anxiety may be heightened, worsening the condition. A study highlighting massage as an anxiety-reducing intervention for post-operative cardiac surgery patients showed that patients felt less anxiety and more reassured. This suggests that massage may be used in lieu of h4 pharmaceutical drug therapies post-operatively.

Have you received massage therapy regularly beyond the use of relaxation? What benefits have you received from regular massage?

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