According to Dr. Tiffany Field, founder of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, massage has numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Field has written upwards of two dozen books and more than 450 journal articles on the subject, garnering credibility in her field. The Touch Research Institute is the first major center devoted to studying the healing potential of touch. The following are some of her findings.
Provides total relaxation—According to Field, even a 10-minute chair massage can lower your blood pressure and slow down your heart rate. Studies have also shown that mental performance is enhanced after a massage. During a study, people who were given math problems to solve after a massage did them twice as fast with half the errors as people who did not receive a massage.
Restores your body—Massage helps people spend more time in deep sleep, the restorative stage in which your body barely moves, allowing more healing to take place.
Reduces stress, eases pain—According to Field, her studies show that massage therapy lowers cortisol, a hormone that’s produced in response to stress, by an average of 31 percent. As cortisol levels decline, serotonin, one of the body’s anti-pain mechanisms, increases. In short, massage boosts your ability to fend off pain. Reducing stress is hugely important, considering experts estimate it is the cause of 90% of diseases. Reducing stress leads to decreased anxiety, enhanced sleep quality, greater energy, improved concentration, better circulation, and reduced fatigue.
Boosts the immune system—Thanks to the reduction of cortisol levels during massage, natural killer (NK) cells go up. Natural killer cells are a key component of the immune system, killing cancer cells, viral cells, and bacterial cells. Other studies have shown that women who received three massages per week had increased urinary levels of serotonin, dopamine, NK cells and lymphocytes—all of which suggested their immune systems were stronger.
Other benefits of massage include the following:
- Alleviates lower-back pain and increases range of motion
- Eases medication dependence
- Enhances immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body’s natural defense system
- Helps athletes recover from strenuous workouts
- Improves the condition of the body’s largest organ—the skin.
- Increases joint flexibility
- Lessens depression and anxiety
- Promotes tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks
- Pumps oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation
- Reduces spasms and cramping
- Relaxes and softens injured, tired, and overused muscles
- Releases endorphins—amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller.
- Relieves migraine pain
- Reduces postsurgery adhesions and swelling
- Contributes to shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers and shortens maternity hospital stays.
Dramatic Health Effects
Research has also shown that various physiological and chemical changes cascade throughout the body after a massage. Studies have indicated the following additional profound effects of massage.
- Arthritis sufferers have fewer aches and less stiffness and pain
- Asthmatic children show better pulmonary function and increased peak air flow
- Burn injury patients report reduced pain, itching, and anxiety
- High blood pressure patients demonstrate lower diastolic blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones
- Premenstrual syndrome sufferers have decreased water retention and cramping
- Preterm infants have improved weight gain
Other research continues to show other enormous benefits and applications, including treating chronic diseases, neurological disorders, and injuries. So to summarize, getting a massage can do you a world of good. According to Field, people would benefit from receiving daily 10-minute massages. That doesn’t mean you have to rely on a partner to give you one. In fact, any activity that stimulates pressure receptors—such as walking, which presses the soles of the feet; doing yoga; scrubbing yourself with a brush or loofah in the shower; rubbing a tennis ball along your limbs—should have an effect similar to that of moderate pressure massage.
Consider a regularly scheduled self-care can plan, budgeting time and money as an investment in your health. Consider massage appointments a necessary piece of your health and wellness plan, and work with your practitioner to establish a treatment schedule that best meets your needs.