We all know how a good massage can make us feel relaxed and refreshed. Is it all in our head? Science says no. Massage can actually help lower the body’s hormonal markers of stress, and that’s supported by evidence.
Of course, the importance of stress management is also well-known to us. 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, a massage is always an option, except in cases where it’s contraindicated – for example, if we’re intoxicated.
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 keep getting the benefit, you have to keep getting the massages.
Not that this is surprising. After all, stress is an everyday part of our lives. It’s just like having to take a shower each and everyday. The following day, we go out into the big grimy world again and take another shower, and so on. If you want to maintain safe stress hormone levels, you need to get a massage regularly.
This study was done about seven years ago. Since then, a lot of other studies were done and proved that massage does has this stress reduction effect, although temporary. These latter studies also focused specifically on the benefits of massage if done continuously. In a particular research project, nurses were given either 25-minute massage sessions twice a week for four straight weeks, or placebo. By the end of the fourth week, nurses in the intervention set were found to have significantly 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. Some say “massage” is no more than an excuse to relieve the guilt of lying down and being unproductive. But whether that’s true or not, it won’t even matter. If it does what it does, then we’ll have it.
Finally, there’s the other perception that massage is all about 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 good to get your massage from a trained professional.