The Scientific Link Between Massage and Stress
We all know how relaxing and uplifting a good massage can be. Is it all in our head? According to science, 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. Every now and then, we read or hear about news confirming the big role stress plays in the development of various diseases and medical conditions, from cancer to obesity and everything else. Still, many of us find it hard to keep ourselves from being stressed, and we’re often left without much of a solution. Fortunately, a massage is always an option, except in cases where it’s contraindicated – for example, if we’re intoxicated.
Studies have shown that massage minimizes cortisol (aka stress hormone) levels , the infamous stress hormone. Which is great, except that this effect doesn’t really last very long. To maintain the benefit, you have to maintain the massages.
Not that this is surprising. After all, stress is an everyday part of our lives. It’s no different from having to get a shower each day. The following day, we go out into the big grimy world again and take another shower, and so on. If you want to keep your stress hormones at a safe level, you have to keep getting a massage.
This study was performed some seven years back. From that time on, plenty other studies were done and proved that massage indeed lowered stress levels in the body, albeit temporarily. 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. At the end of the fourth week, those who were in the intervention group were found to have lower cortisol levels. This reinforces earlier conclusions that regular massage is required to help you maintain a low-stress state .
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. True or not, it doesn’t matter. If it does what it does, then we’ll have it.
Lastly, some people think the benefits of massage have something to do with the human touch. 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, it is logical to assume that massage also works in other ways, noting that unique methods are used to provide unique effects, such as pain reduction in cancer patients and everyday stress relief. In any case, it’s always best to choose a trained staff to give you a massage.