Power of Touch: The Profound Benefits of Massage
We’ve known about the importance of focused touch and massage for thousands of years. More recently, evidence-based medicine and peer-reviewed studies are proving the many benefits of massage. Let it inspire you to run to your nearest massage and wellness center and book a massage! The power of touch affects us on a daily basis. Whether it is the gentle touch of a loved one, or the strike of an elbow in a crowded room, we feel it every day. The first step in harnessing the profound power of touch is simply knowing the benefits.
Research is finding, through scientific studies that massage works on a variety of levels. According to WebMD, “Emerging research suggests that touch therapy works. In one landmark study, 16 happily married women were subjected to the threat of a mild electric shock; touching their husbands’ hands brought immediate relief from the resulting anxiety. Even a stranger’s touch was somewhat calming.” Additionally, research institutions, universities, and medical schools are reporting findings that point towards massage not only for physical therapeutics but also as effective preventative healthcare.
“We know that anxiety decreases immune function and makes you get sick more often,” says study author Jim Coan, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia. “If touch can help you be less anxious, you’re more likely to stay well.” –Full Article
Those of us that experience the power of touch from a therapeutic standpoint stand to gain from a variety of beneficial attributes. Our health, well-being, and even sleep habits are effected positively with massage.
Broad Range of Benefit
“Researchers at the University of Miami followed 37 breast cancer patients who received massage therapy or practiced progressive muscle relaxation for five weeks. Women in the massage group reported feeling less depressed and angry, and they had more energy. In a University of South Florida study of high blood pressure patients, those who got 10-minute massages three times a week for three weeks lowered their higher number by 11 points.
A review of more than a dozen massage studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine concludes that massage therapy relieves depression and anxiety by affecting the body’s biochemistry. In a series of studies including about 500 men, women, and children with depression or stress problems, researchers measured the stress hormone cortisol in participants before and immediately after massage and found that the therapy lowered levels by up to 53%. (Cortisol can drive up blood pressure and blood sugar levels and suppress the immune system.) Massage also increased serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.” –Full Article
Some of the many benefits of massage include:
A large number of studies have shown massage to reduce cortisol (stress-inducing hormone) levels dramatically. The reduction in this hormone can lead to feelings of joy and well-being. This effect can also reduce negative physical and biological attributes such as high-blood pressure and fatigue. Similar studies have also proven massage to raise the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Pleasure, well-being and mental health are connected to dopamine and serotonin.
Good massage can accomplish all of this while achieving its initial goal and purpose of pain management and relief. Stress related illnesses and complaints make up 75%-90% of doctor’s visits. If massage can help to alleviate even a fraction of this stress level, it is worth pursuing. Massage shows a boost of alertness and feelings of well-being in patients. Many report that the feeling they get from massage is similar to that of a “runner’s high”. Additionally, the brain wave activity affected by massage is heavily linked to improved attention.
The importance of sleep to a healthy lifestyle is clear. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,
“Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions—such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression—which threaten our nation’s health. Notably, insufficient sleep is associated with the onset of these diseases and also poses important implications for their management and outcome.”
Luckily for us, research is starting to show some correlations between frequency of massage and quality of sleep. Massage affects delta waves and hormone regulation. Manipulating delta waves (brain waves associated with deep sleep) through the act of massage can induce profound effects on both the ease and quality of sleep that one experiences.
Here is additional insight into how the hormones affected by massage can play out in your sleep-wake cycle.
The University Of Auckland Department Of Psychology proved that,
“Compared to control participants, massage participants exhibited greater improvements in migraine frequency and sleep quality during the intervention weeks and the 3 follow-up weeks. Observations showed trends for beneficial effects of massage therapy on perceived stress and coping efficacy. During sessions, massage induced decreases in state anxiety, heart rate, and cortisol. Statistics showed improved quality of sleep among the back-massage group. Initial analysis showed a significant difference among the 3 groups in sleep efficiency index.” Here is the NIH Abstract on this study.
Boosts Immune System
Some exciting studies as of late have shown massage to boost the amount of “Killer Cells” in patients suffering from HIV. These killer cells boost a person’s overall immunity help stave off the onset of numerous forms of illness. Killer Cells also help to fight and ward off disease and infection. A recent study at Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences showed that as little as one hour-long session of massage produced the following effects:
- People in the massage group experienced significant changes in lymphocytes. (Lymphocyte numbers and percentages white blood cells that play a large role in defending the body from disease.
- Decreases (effect size -.74) in Arginine Vasopressin (AVP) a hormone believed to play a role in aggressive behavior and linked to helping cause increases in the stress hormone cortisol.
- Decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Massage caused a notable decrease in most cytokines produced by stimulated white blood cells. –Full Article
Many of us fight off the common cold on a regular basis and some fight more severe illnesses. Massage boosts the immune system and leads to a better chance at preventing disease and illness.
Big Step in Preventative Health Care
We can effectively lower overall stress level and improve their sleep habits. We can also increase overall alertness, and prevent disease by setting up regular massage. These results are achievable without pharmaceuticals or hefty medical costs. We find these outcomes with the profound power of touch and massage.
If you are in the Vancouver or Portland area, check out Natural Body Works Massage and Wellness Center. Set up a personalized preventative plan with one of our experienced practitioners. Our team will leave you feeling pampered and refreshed, while creating the maximum physical and mental benefits.
Schedule your appointment today!