Back to basics – The benefits of massage

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To massage or touch with the intention of relieving pain is an instinct basic to human nature. If it hurts, you rub it. However western research is now confirming that the benefits of massage are not limited simply to alleviating muscle pain.

The Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the Miami University School of Medicine is demonstrating that not only does massage help soothe pain from arthritis, burns and surgery, but that it may also boost immunity, lower blood pressure and even help premature babies gain weight.

Here are a few snippets from their recent research:

Pain reduction: Findings show that massage creates chemical changes that reduce pain and stress. This occurs primarily by reducing the production of a neuropeptide known as Substance P. This substance is found in the brain and spinal cord, and is associated with some inflammatory processes of the joints. Research has shown that after treating individuals suffering from fibromyalgia with twice-weekly massages, not only did they experience lessened pain levels but the levels of Substance P present in their saliva also decreased markedly.

A 2009 study found that a 30-minute massage decreased pain for people with tension headaches and even curbed some of the stress and anger associated with that pounding head.

According to a 2011 study, massage helped people in pain to feel and function better, compared to people who didn’t receive any massage treatment. It was concluded that the benefits of massage were as effective as other treatments including medication, acupuncture, exercise and yoga.

Cortisol inhibition: The steroidal stress hormone cortisol is produced by the body to facilitate the well known ‘flight and fright’ response. However, chronic stress leads to prolonged cortisol secretion, which has a very damaging effect on the immune system and emotional well-being. Saliva tests before and after massage showed dramatic decreases in cortisol levels, allowing the body much needed repair time.

Adults who were given a 15 minute chair massage in a 1996 TRI study were more alert and completed a math question faster and more accurately after their treatment.

Regulating Blood Pressure: A great deal of research suggests this may be due to the fact that massage stimulates pressure receptors that in turn prompt action from the vagus nerve – the nerve which regulates blood pressure. In a 2005 study at the University of South Florida, hypertension patients who received 10 massages of 10 minutes each, over three weeks, showed significant improvements in blood pressure compared to a control group who simply rested in the same environment without any massage.

If you have ever dozed off on a massage table, you don’t need to be convinced that massage can promote healthy sleep. A number of studies have examined this link and chalk it up to the effect massage has on delta waves – the brain waves connected with deep sleep.

Do you need any more encouragement to book that treatment?

Sweet dreams…

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