The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Massage
For thousands of years, massage has been used for many purposes. In ancient China, it was used for pain relief, as well as treating a range of physical ailments. In ancient India, massage was believed to balance the body’s energy levels thus making a person relaxed, healthier and happier. Numerous scientific studies have revealed that these ancient civilisations were actually right. Massage does have a range of physical and mental health benefits. Some of the main benefits are the following:
image credits: Daniela
Massage is one of the best natural remedies for pain relief. It can be used for relieving pains caused by muscular aches, cramps and physical injuries. It does this by relaxing the muscles and thereby getting rid of any knots, strains or sprains Pain relief is the reason why massage is very popular among amateur and professional athletes. A study published in the Scientific World Journal in Feb 2014 found massage to be an effective remedy for providing pain relief for people suffering from chronic lower-back pain. In the study, massage was found to be as effective conventional anti-inflammatory drugs.
Massage also promotes faster recovery from both physical injuries and diseases. For physical injuries, massage improves blood circulation to the injured part. This allows in nutrients into the area thus fast-tracking the regeneration of body cells and tissues. A 2012 study carried out by McCaster University researchers found massage to stimulate muscles to produce more mitochondria, thus leading to faster healing from sports related injuries. For diseases, massage helps in boosting the body’s immunity. It does this by stimulating the production of leucocytes – white blood cells which fight disease. This boosts the body’s disease fighting mechanism thereby leading to faster healing and recovery.
Massage improves the health of the skin and cardiovascular system. For the skin, massage improves the tone, firmness, removes wrinkles and increases the skin’s elasticity. It does this by relaxing the muscles beneath the skin, and improving blood circulation to the skin. Improved circulation helps in bringing nutrients to and removing toxins from the skin. This leaves the skin not only healthier, but also looking vibrant, youthful and radiant. A study published in the March 2014 edition of the Journal Burns found massage to be an effective remedy for reducing scars left behind by burns.
Reduced blood pressure
For the cardiovascular system, massage reduces blood pressure, calms down the body and improves circulation. This makes the system to function at its optimum levels. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Alternative Medicine found a 45 to 60 minute massage session to reduce blood pressure by 10 mg Hg and heart rate by 10 beats per minute. This effect is about the same as that of blood pressure medication. The cardiovascular benefit are why massage is often recommended for people who are suffering from high blood pressure, hypertension and heart disease.
Massage can play a vital role in relieving stress and anxiety related symptoms. Massage provides relief for these conditions by tackling them at a biochemical level. Stress and anxiety often result from the build up of cortisol and noradrenaline in the body. These lead stress-related symptoms like insomnia, irritability, migraines and many others. Massage has been proved to reduce the levels of cortisol and noradrenaline in the body, thereby alleviating the stress and anxiety symptoms. A 2013 study published by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) found that a single 45 minute massage session can significantly reduce stress and anxiety symptoms.
Stimulation of the serotonin levels
Massage is also known to make people relaxed, more positive and much happier. Massage stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which has a calming effect on the body. Massage Therapists from Hong Kong found out it stimulates the increase of serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin is a biochemical which is renowned for stimulating feelings of wellbeing, elation and happiness. When there are high levels of serotonin in the body, a person generally experiences more positive moods. This is the reason why massage is often recommended as a remedy against depression.
In a nutshell, those are some of the physical and mental health benefits of massage. It is important to note that these benefits can only come after consistent massage over an extended time period. A single session is not enough to bring about these benefits. Therefore, anyone who wants to enjoy the above benefits should sign up for regular massage sessions. Having one session per week or fortnight is a good start.
Article contributed by Romeo Demes, a passionate writer and blogger currently living in Australia.