While massage may have developed a reputation as a decadent treat for people who love pampering, new studies are showing it has a wide variety of tangible health benefits.
The benefits of massage go beyond feelings of relaxation and wellness that people may recognise.
Those who have dozed off under skilled hands won’t need much convincing of this, but studies show that massage can reduce sleep disturbance, linking it to the effect on the delta waves that are associated with deep sleep.
The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society now include massage as one of their recommendations for treating low back pain, according to guidelines published in 2007.
And a study into the effectiveness of both relaxation and structural massage and other care on lower back pain found that a 10-week massage treatment reduced pain more than medications and exercises – and the effects lasted for six months. It also showed that relaxation massage was as effective as structural massage.
A regular rub-down can also help headaches, according to the Touch Research Institute, reducing the pain and frequency of a migraine, and another study finding tension headaches could be alleviated by a 30-minute massage.
Boosts mood and beats stress
Better sleep and fewer pounding heads would certainly boost the mood, but there’s good reason for feeling better after as a massage. The Touch Research Institute also found it soothes anxiety by reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. This may mean less stress, anxiety, and depression.
Boosts the immune system
A massage may not just help you relax and cheer you up, but it may also help to improve the function of the immune system. One study by researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles found that people who had a 45-minute massage had an increase of lymphocytes, white blood cells that help to defend the body from disease.
Boosts the complexion and hair
Better sleep, less stress and a better mood is bound to make you feel better, but a regular rub-down may well result in an increased radiance in your skin as well as mood. Massage increases blood flow and encourages lymphatic drainage (taking toxins out and away from cells), which is why regular stimulation may add vitality to your complexion and hair.