The Very Real Benefits of Massage

Mar 22, 10:45 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Many people regard massage as a luxury, a pampering experience or an occasional treat. Few realize that receiving regular massage therapy is a form of preventative healthcare, and can go a long way in improving muscle tone, boosting immunity and enabling the body and mind to handle stress more efficiently. A recent article in WSJ dealt with the topic of massage as a legitimate form of alternative medicine, quoting many studies on the benefits of this effective (and very pleasant) modality. Here are a few highlights from that article:

A single 45 minute massage will cause a small but clinically significant reduce in cortisol. It will also boost white blood cell production (helping the body to fight infection) and decrease cytochine levels in the body. Cytokines are natural biochemicals responsible for inflammatory and allergic reactions.

In breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, massage boosted immune function and lowered heart rate (inciting a relaxation response).

Asthmatic children who received a nightly 20 minute massage from their parents had significantly improved lung function after 5 weeks, compared to children who received only standard asthma treatments.

A mere 10 minute massage increased mitochondrial output and reduced inflammatory protein in over-exercised muscles. Mitochondria are structures responsible for producing the energy used in cellular metabolism.

Persons with low back pain receiving either a Swedish massage or a massage addressing more specific areas of discomfort had less pain and disability than a control group which received no massage therapy. Participants in this study received one massage weekly for 10 weeks. Some benefits were evident even 9 months after cessation of treatment.

Patients with osteoarthritis of the knees who received regular full body massage therapy for 2 months showed reduced pain, better range of motion, and increased speed of walking.

Persons who received only one 45 minute massage showed a reduction in arginine-vasopressin, a hormone that increases with aggressive behaviour and stress.

Many aromatherapists are cross-trained in massage therapy, and some use this modality as a primary vehicle to deliver essential oils to the body. The addition of essential oils can increase benefits of massage therapy, boosting the effects of both modalities. Additionally, an aromatherapist/massage therapist can provide take home blends for muscle and joint pain, stress management, and other common ailments which can extend the effects of treatment between massage appointments.

Petersen, Andrea. Don't Call it Pampering: Massage Wants to be Medicine. Wall Street Journal, 13 Mar. 2012. Dow Jones & Co: NY, NY.

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