What are the Benefits of Massage?

When I was first introduced to massage, I was given a list of platitudes stating what the benefits of massage were.

I was taught that massage:

  • Increased circulation
  • Reduces stress
  • Promotes a general sense of well being
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Boosts the immune system

As nice as all that sounds, they were still unsubstantiated and somewhat meaningless. Today I feel as though there is a better understanding of the benefits of massage and bodywork. My years of experience have taught me that regular massage plays a major role in a person awareness of their body and clients always seem to leave in a good mood.

Not only has practicing Massage Therapy and Bodywork taught me many of these things but genuine (scientific and monitored) research has studied the effects of Massage Therapy and Bodywork.

 

  • Massage Therapy and Bodywork Reduce anxiety

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry  Massage reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients.

A 30-minute back massage was given daily for a 5-day period to 52 hospitalized depressed and adjustment disorder children and adolescents. Compared with a control group who viewed relaxing videotapes, the massaged subjects were less depressed and anxious and had lower saliva cortisol levels after the massage. In addition, nurses rated the subjects as being less anxious and more cooperative on the last day of the study, and nighttime sleep increased over this period. Finally, urinary cortisol and norepinephrine levels decreased, but only for the depressed subjects. J. Am. Acad. Child 

  • Massage Therapy Helps to Ease Chronic Pain

Europe PubMed Central has 18 citations attesting the use of Therapeutic Massage

(consisting of effleurage, petrissage, and myofascial trigger point therapy) as a nursing intervention to modify anxiety and cancer pain was resounding.  Massage Therapy significantly reduced the subjects level of pain perception (average = 60%) and anxiety (average = 24%) while enhancing their feelings of relaxation by an average of 58%.

  • Massage Therapy Increases Range of Motion and Promotes Muscle Strength

In this study Twenty people with spinal cord injuries were recruited from a Outpatient Clinic, half were assigned to a Massage Therapy and half an exercise group. Patients in the Massage Therapy control group received two 40 minute sessions per week for five weeks. Patients in the exercise control group practiced a range of motion exercise routine targeting the arms, neck, shoulders, and back twice a week for five weeks. Even though both groups appeared to benefit from their therapies, only the massage group showed lower anxiety and depression scores and significantly increased their muscle strength and wrist range of motion.

 

  • Massage Therapy Improves Sleep

Twenty four people in this study, being treated for fibromyalgia were assigned to either to a Relaxation Therapy group or a Massage Therapy Group. Both groups demonstrated an improved mood and a diminishing level of anxiety, but only the Massage Therapy Group reported an increase in the hours slept and fewer movement during sleep.

 

  • Massage Therapy Improves Circulation

In this study Seventeen volunteers received a twenty minute neck and shoulder massage followed by an infrared thermography scan which demonstrated a peripheral increase in blood flow.

 

  • Massage Therapy Improves Immune Functions

This study suggests that Massage Therapy not only feels good but a single massage may benefit the recipient in unexpected ways.

Among this study’s findings:

  • People in the Swedish massage group experienced significant changes in lymphocytes ,(lymphocyte numbers and percentages white blood cells that play a large role in defending the body from disease.
  • Swedish massage caused a large decrease (effect size -.74) in Arginine Vasopressin (AVP) a hormone believed to play a role in aggressive behavior and linked to helping cause increases in the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Swedish massage caused a decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Swedish massage caused a notable decrease in most cytokines produced by stimulated white blood cells.

 

  • Massage Therapy Improves Blood Pressure

This study dates back to 2005. Patients of the University of South Florida suffering from hypertension received ten, ten minute massages over three weeks. The Massage Therapy control group showed significant improvements in hypertension compared to the other control group who simply rested.

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