Massage as a Stress Buster (And Why It’s NOT All in Your Mind)
A good massage feels great, we all know that. Is it all just a feeling? Science says no. Massage can actually help bring down hormonal markers of stress in the body ,and there’s proof to that.
Of course, we also know how important stress management is. From time to time, we hear about studies showing how stress can increase our vulnerability to all sorts of health problems, from weight gain to autoimmune diseases such as cancer. Still, we couldn’t seem to stop ourselves from being stressed, and we’re usually left with barely any solution. Fortunately, we can always get a massage, unless it’s contraindicated, such as after an acute muscle injury.
According to different studies, it was found that massage reduces cortisol (the infamous stress hormone) levels. And that’s good news, except that this effect isn’t really going to last that long. To extend the life of this benefit, you have to keep getting massages.
Not that this is surprising. After all, our world has become stressful, whether we like it or not. It’s just like having to shower everyday. The next day, we get dirty again, take another shower to keep us clean, and so on. If you want to maintain safe stress hormone levels, you need to get a massage regularly.
This study was performed some seven years back. Since then, a lot of other studies were done and proved that massage does has this stress reduction effect, although temporary. These consequent studies also particularly emphasized the benefits of massage when done on a continuous basis. As part of a particular research project, nurses were given either massage (25 minutes, 2x a week) or placebo for four weeks straight. By the end of the fourth week, nurses in the intervention set were found to have significantly lower cortisol levels. This strengthens earlier findings that it is possible to remain in a low-stress state with regular massage.
While it’s now clear how massage affects stress, there is no clear explanation why. There are those who say that “massage” is just an excuse term for lying down and being totally unproductive for an hour or so. But true or not, it probably shouldn’t even matter. As long as it does what it does, then we’re having it.
Finally, for other people, it’s the human touch in massage that gives it its power. And it could be partly true, because there’s a good amount of research proving that the human touch does provide health benefits. On the other hand, massage can also be effective in several other ways, knowing that different methods are used to produce different effects, from pain management to plain and simple reduction. In any case, it’s always best to choose a trained staff to give you a massage.