Massage is considered by many to be a frivolous or an indulgent way to pass the time, when in fact it is a well researched therapeutic way to cleanse, detox and nourish your body. It is a form of alternate therapy and was endorsed by the oldest civilisations. Think the Indian Ayurvedic massages, Japanese Shiatsu, Chinese Acupressure and not to forget the more recent great Roman baths and their massage rituals. All of them employ ‘touch’ as a form of therapy. And it truly is the most instinctive form of relieving stress.
I have to admit, I love getting a massage. Once every few weeks I religiously make an appointment to rejuvenate myself. Some of the key physiological effects of massage on the body are:
1. Increases your Lymph flow: The lymphatic system is the drainage system of your body. It helps in clearing fluid left behind in the tissues and sends it back into the veins. It also houses white blood cells and carries bacteria and other microbes picked up by the lymph fluid. They are sent to the lymph nodes where they can be attacked and destroyed.
Research shows that a session of massage can increase the number of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection) while lowering the levels of cytokines, molecules that play a part in inflammation (Ref1). Even one session boosts your body’s immunity.
2. Eases persistent Soreness: Sitting for hours in front of the laptop can cause stiff muscles. Even mental stress manifests itself as aches and pains especially in and around the spine. Therapists can release this trapped stress as they knead and massage your back muscles. The result is that you will feel immediately relaxed both physically and mentally.
Some therapists have recounted how some of their clients started to cry as they loosened the knots in their muscles. They experienced a release of emotions which they could not contain but as a result felt lighter and happier. This mind body connection was used by Sigmund Freud who employed Massage Therapy to treat hysteria!
3. Calms you down: Immediately after a massage session, you will experience a sense of peace and tranquility. This is similar to the feeling one gets after meditation. During massage you invariably connect with your body- your muscles and tendons that make up the entire expanse of your being. Regular sessions are highly recommended for those who live a hectic, stressful and fast paced life.
In a research study, 34 women diagnosed with Stage 1 or 2 of breast cancer were assigned to a massage therapy group or control group. The immediate effect on those in the massage therapy group was reduced depression, anxiety and anger. The long term effect included reduced depression and increase in the number of NK cells (Natural Killer cells i.e. cells that are responsible to remove cancerous cells from the body), dopamine (controls body’s pleasure or reward centers), serotonin (primarily found in the gastro-intestinal tract and is contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness) and also lymphocytes (Ref2).
Besides these benefits, massage is known to increase the body’s secretions, in the form of gastric juices, saliva and urine, and excretions of nitrogen, inorganic phosphorus and sodium chloride (Ref3). This seems to suggests that body’s metabolic functions receive a boost from a session of massage.
Lastly, massage also has an incredible effect on the internal organs both directly and indirectly. The stimulation of nerves that supply nutrients to these organs allows the blood vessels to dilate and allow greater blood supply to them.
If you are still in doubt how a session of massage will benefit you, then I suggest you book your appointment to experience this amazing feeling of wellness without delay. 🙂
Ref1: Rapport M.H, Scheduler P, Bresee C. A Preliminary Study of the effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Oct. 16(10): 1079-1088.
Ref2: Hernandez-Reif M, Ironson G, etal. Breast cancer patients have improved immune and neuroendocrine functions following massage therapy. J Psychosom Res. 2004 Jul; 57(1):45-52.
Ref3: Premkumar K. The Massage Connection: Anatomy and Physiology. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins Publishers, 2004 (Medical)
Cautionary Note: Certain medical conditions require caution regarding receiving massages. If you are in doubt, check with your doctor or other qualified medical practitioner before embarking on massage therapy.