Taylor 2
5 min|Dr. Taylor Green

9 Benefits of Massage You May Not Know About

Wellness

Massage therapy is one of the most versatile and effective forms of treatment available.

Massages feel good – but did you know they can have long-term benefits on mental, emotional, and physical health? Massage therapy has been practiced as one of the oldest forms of medicine in many cultures around the world, but there is ample science and research behind the powerful impacts of massage on many aspects of our health.

What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, including fascia/connective tissue, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints using various amounts of pressure and movement. There are many types of massage techniques from Swedish, Deep Tissue, Lymphatic Drainage, Thai, Shiatzu, and Rolfing. It works to release adhesions within the soft tissue, promote blood and lymph circulation, and improve mobility.

Benefits of Massage

1. Reduction of Pain Syndrome Symptoms, Fibromyalgia, & Arthritis.

Massage has been shown to stimulate the release of “feel good” endorphins and enkephalins that reduce anxiety, stress, and pain perception. It has been shown massage may lead to a reduction in the activation of pain receptors in the spinal cord and muscles, as well as a blocked production of inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, interleukin-6, and HSP-27), which minimizes swelling, pain, and inflammation of in soft tissue. The brain is then signalled to relax the body. Massage increases blood flow to muscles and connective tissue, allowing for adequate nutrients needed for repair.

2. Lower Blood Pressure

Deep tissue and Swedish massage act to decrease blood pressure by stimulating the Vagus nerve, inducing our parasympathetic nervous system (our “rest and digest” state). Massage decreases blood pressure and heart rate by increasing oxygen uptake, which may decrease the activation of the renin-angiotensin pathway. Lower blood pressure reduces our risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and many other conditions.

3. Strengthen the Immune System

The relationship between high levels of stress and its detrimental impact on the immune system is well-known. Stress elevates cortisol, which supresses our white blood cell activity, making us less able to fight off infection. Weekly massage treatments were shown to boost the immune system by increasing immune cell levels in participants.

4. Mitigate Stress, Anxiety & Depression

Increased production of endorphins and oxytocin, in conjunction with lowered levels of norepinephrine, epinephrine and cortisol have powerful impacts on mood.

5. Improve Circulation and Muscle Recovery

Massage increases muscle repair by promoting cell growth and blood perfusion, in addition to reducing inflammatory cytokines that can further damage muscle tissue.

6. Promotes Sleep

Massage promotes a calming and relaxing effect that may increase sleep latency and quality.

7. Help Migraines & Chronic Headaches

Regular massage has been shown to reduce migraine frequency and improve sleep quality in patients. It can also help to reduce headache intensity in those suffering with tension headaches.

8. Stroke Rehabilitation

Massage may help to restore sensorimotor function in stroke patients. When used in conjunction with electric acupuncture, massage may stimulate damaged nerves in muscle targets and help with movement recovery.

9. Quality of Life in Cancer Patients

Therapeutic massage can reduce pain, fatigue, nausea, and anxiety in those undergoing chemotherapy by increasing dopamine, serotonin, and other endorphins. In women with breast cancer, manual lymphatic drainage helps to redirect waste congestion and relieve discomfort in swollen lymph nodes.

Massage is an excellent modality on its own, or used as part of an integrated treatment regime. Speak with your healthcare provider if massage therapy is right for you!

References

Angelov, D. N. (2011). Physical Rehabilitation of Paralysed Facial Muscles: Functional and Morphological Correlates. Advances in Anatomy, Embryology and Cell Biology. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-18120-7

Cambron, J. A., Dexheimer, J., & Coe, P. (2006). Changes in Blood Pressure After Various Forms of Therapeutic Massage: A Preliminary Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12(1), 65-70. doi:10.1089/acm.2006.12.65

Castro-Sánchez, A. M., Matarán-Peñarrocha, G. A., Granero-Molina, J., Aguilera-Manrique, G., Quesada-Rubio, J. M., & Moreno-Lorenzo, C. (2011). Benefits of Massage-Myofascial Release Therapy on Pain, Anxiety, Quality of Sleep, Depression, and Quality of Life in Patients with Fibromyalgia. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011, 1-9. doi:10.1155/2011/561753

Farber, K., & Wieland, L. S. (2016). Massage for Low-back Pain. Explore, 12(3), 215-217. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2016.02.014

Lawler, S. P., & Cameron, L. D. (2006). A randomized, controlled trial of massage therapy as a treatment for migraine. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 32(1), 50-59. doi:10.1207/s15324796abm3201_6

Li, N., Tian, F., Wang, C., Yu, P., Zhou, X., Wen, Q., . . . Huang, L. (2012). Therapeutic effect of acupuncture and massage for shoulder-hand syndrome in hemiplegia patients: A clinical two-center randomized controlled trial. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 32(3), 343-349. doi:10.1016/s0254-6272(13)60035-7

Lopez, G., Liu, W., Milbury, K., Spelman, A., Wei, Q., Bruera, E., & Cohen, L. (2017). The effects of oncology massage on symptom self-report for cancer patients and their caregivers. Supportive Care in Cancer, 25(12), 3645-3650. doi:10.1007/s00520-017-3784-7

Puntumetakul, R., Pithak, R., Namwongsa, S., Saiklang, P., & Boucaut, R. (2019). The effect of massage technique plus thoracic manipulation versus thoracic manipulation on pain and neural tension in mechanical neck pain: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 31(2), 195-201. doi:10.1589/jpts.31.195

Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, P., & Bresee, C. (2012). A Preliminary Study of the Effects of Repeated Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Healthy Individuals: A Study of Mechanisms of Action and Dosage. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(8), 789-797. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0071


Taylor 2

Dr. Taylor Green

Dr. Taylor Green has always been fascinated by the intricacies of nature, the human body and health sciences. For her, health is not defined by the absence of disease, but the balance between mind, body, and environment.

Learn More