The benefits of massage
Massages may be viewed as a treat, but studies also indicate that they may have a variety of health benefits. Massage as medicine? That’s one prescription we’d all like.
The benefits of massage go beyond feelings of relaxation and wellness. They can also include:
- Improved sleep
- Pain relief
- Mood boost
- Beat stress
- Boost the immune system
- Boost the complexion and hair
Those who’ve dozed off under skilled hands won’t need much convincing of this, but studies show that massage can reduce sleep disturbance, linking it to the effect on the delta waves that are associated with deep sleep. A 1998 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that patients suffering from migraines reported fewer distress symptoms, less pain, more headache-free days and fewer sleep disturbances after a course of massage therapy.
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The right kind of pressure can help to loosen knots in the muscles and encourage better blood flow. Massage can also improve your flexibility and consequently help to prevent injuries or strains (particularly those caused by repetitive strain).
A 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on the effectiveness of both relaxation and structural massage and other care on lower back pain also found that a 10-week massage treatment reduced pain more than medications and exercises - and the effects lasted for up to six months. It also showed that relaxation massage was as effective as structural massage.
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Better sleep, less stress and a better mood... all results of a regular rub-down.
Boosts mood and beats stress
Better sleep and fewer pounding heads would certainly boost the mood, but there’s good reason for feeling better after as a massage. In 2005, The Touch Research Institute also found it soothes anxiety by reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. This may mean less stress, anxiety, and depression.
A 2016 study into the effects of Swedish massage (published the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research) also found that regular treatments reduced some of the symptoms associated with anxiety. Study participants received three 30-minute massage sessions per week for four weeks with researchers concluding, "Massage therapy caused a decrease in systolic [blood pressure], pulse and respiratory rate. It can be concluded that massage therapy was useful for decreasing the vital signs associated with anxiety in healthy women.”
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Boosts the immune system
Massage may not just help you relax and cheer you up, but it may also help to improve the function of the immune system. That's because stimulation of the skin and muscles can boost the body's production of chemicals that ease pain and promote feelings of relaxation and well-being. A study conducted in 2010 and published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that a 45-minute massage has can increase the number of white blood cells that help defend the body from disease. Better blood circulation may also lead to enhanced organ function which makes you feel brighter and happier. So there's something in that old ethos of healthy body, healthy mind.
Boosts the complexion and hair
Better sleep, less stress and a better mood are bound to make you feel better, but a regular rub-down may well result in an increased radiance in your skin as well as mood. Massage increases blood flow and encourages lymphatic drainage (taking toxins out and away from cells), which is why regular stimulation may add vitality to your complexion and hair.
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With studies like these showing that there's more to massage than may meet the eye, it's no surprise that an increased number of people are choosing to reap the benefits. In 2015, Market Research group Mintel found that 30% of adults had enjoyed a massage in the past and a further 37% who have never had a massage were interested in having one in future.