7 Health Benefits of Body Massage

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Who doesn’t love a good massage? It’s one of the most relaxing experiences you can treat yourself to. But did you know it can also have a tangible, positive impact on your mental and physical well-being?

Let’s explore some of the health benefits of body massage and how it could improve your quality of life.

Health benefits of body massage

Reduces stress

If you’ve ever gotten a massage, you probably noticed it relaxed you in the moment–and left you feeling calmer for days afterward. That’s not just your imagination at work.

One of the biggest advantages of massage therapy is its ability to reduce stress. Massage does this by:

  • Lowering levels of cortisol, a hormone released when we’re stressed
  • Releasing endorphins, hormones that boost mood and promote relaxation
  • Stimulating the release of two feel-good neurotransmitters: serotonin, a mood stabilizer, and dopamine, which is associated with pleasure

Massage has also been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” functions. Engaging the PNS helps counterbalance our stress response, inducing a state of relaxation.

And it does this quickly. According to one study, just 10 minutes of massage can activate the PNS and create feelings of calm.

Alleviates pain

Massage is a proven, effective way to reduce pain and discomfort, whether due to injury, chronic conditions, strenuous exercise, or stress. It does this by:

  • Reducing muscle tension
  • Improving circulation, which enhances healing and eases pain by helping to remove waste and deliver vital nutrients to tissues
  • Deactivating neurons that send pain signals to the brain, diminishing your perception of discomfort
  • Releasing endorphins, which–in addition to relieving stress–are the body’s natural painkillers
  • Changing signaling pathways involved in inflammation, reducing secondary injury and nerve sensitization, which in turn alleviates pain

Through these mechanisms, massage therapy offers a multifaceted approach to pain relief, making it an invaluable part of any pain management plan.

Improves sleep

Have you ever found yourself nodding off during a good massage? Massages can significantly improve your sleep quality–both immediately and in the days following your session.

Aside from lowering cortisol levels and reducing pain, massage helps with rest by regulating your sleep patterns. One of the key ways it does this is by encouraging the production of melatonin, the hormone that governs our sleep-wake cycle.

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Serotonin acts as a precursor to melatonin. So the serotonin-boosting ability of massage indirectly promotes melatonin production, leading to more restful and uninterrupted sleep.

Increases flexibility and range of motion

Massage therapy can improve your flexibility and range of motion by:

  • Relaxing muscles, connective tissues, and tendons
  • Increasing muscle elasticity through manual manipulation
  • Mobilizing joints
  • Stimulating blood flow, which helps deliver essential nutrients to tissues, supporting their recovery and flexibility

These benefits might be bigger priorities for athletes and those with physically demanding jobs. But massage therapy can still play an important role in maintaining the health and comfort of everyone’s muscles and tissues, ensuring you can continue enjoying your favorite activities.

Increases immunity

One of the more surprising advantages of body massage is its ability to increase the strength of your immune system. This is partly due to the fact that massage helps you get more rejuvenating sleep–a crucial time for the body’s repair processes and infection-fighting capabilities.

Massage also improves circulation, which benefits the immune system. The bloodstream transports various immune cells that are essential in fighting off infections.

Certain massage techniques stimulate the lymph nodes, as well, improving the flow of lymph. Lymph is another bodily fluid containing white blood cells, which help fight infections.

Decreases depression and anxiety

Along with reducing stress and pain, the endorphins released during a massage can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. This mood-enhancing effect is further boosted by the release of serotonin and dopamine.

But massage therapy does more than influence these brain chemicals. It also activates specific brain pathways that regulate the nervous system, leading to a reduction in the body’s stress response.

Studies suggest this modulation of neurotransmitters may also help decrease inflammation, which can play a major role in mood disorders like depression.

Reduces symptoms of various other health conditions

As mentioned above, the physical manipulation of body tissues during a massage improves circulation. Increased blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients reach the muscles, while more waste products exit the body.

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A variety of medical conditions benefit from this improved blood flow, as well as other mechanisms of massage. For example:

  • Diabetes: Increased blood flow–especially in extremities like the feet–can reduce the risk of complications such as foot ulcers. Some studies also suggest that massage can lower blood glucose to healthier levels.
  • Cardiovascular conditions: Healthy blood flow is vital for heart health. Massage may be helpful for those with coronary artery disease, heart failure, or hypertension, since massage increases circulation and lowers blood pressure.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD): Improved circulation can soothe symptoms like leg pain and cramping.
  • Varicose veins: Better circulation can reduce discomfort and potentially prevent worsening of varicose veins.
  • Kidney diseases: Massage supports healthy kidney function, which relies on good circulation for filtering blood. This can also reduce pain and fatigue associated with kidney disease.
  • Arthritis: Increased blood flow can lessen inflammation and pain while reducing stiffness in the joints.
  • Cognitive disorders: Research suggests that improved circulation to the brain may slow the progression of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Considering all these health benefits, massage therapy is definitely worth exploring. Whether you’re looking for pain relief, increased immunity, or alleviation of other symptoms–and whether you opt for a licensed massage therapist or a high-tech massage chair–you’re sure to find some much-needed relief.

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References:

Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy

 

Increase of plasma beta-endorphins in connective tissue massage

 

Physiological Adjustments to Stress Measures Following Massage Therapy: A Review of the Literature – PMC

 

Standardized massage interventions as protocols for the induction of psychophysiological relaxation in the laboratory: a block randomized, controlled trial | Scientific Reports

 

The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

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The mechanisms of massage and effects on performance, muscle recovery and injury prevention

 

Effect of massage on blood flow and muscle fatigue following isometric lumbar exercise

 

Transmitting pain and itch messages: A contemporary view of the spinal cord circuits that generate Gate Control

 

Investigating the mechanisms of massage efficacy: the role of mechanical immunomodulation.

 

The Effects of Massage Therapy on Sport and Exercise Performance: A Systematic Review – PMC.

 

Acute effects of static stretching and massage on flexibility and jumping performance – PMC

 

Massage therapy research review – PMC

 

New perspectives on the role of melatonin in human sleep, circadian rhythms and their regulation

 

Massage therapy by mothers enhances the adjustment of circadian rhythms to the nocturnal period in full-term infants

 

Osteopathic lymphatic pump techniques to enhance immunity and treat pneumonia – PMC

 

What does blood do? – InformedHealth.org – NCBI Bookshelf

 

Massage Therapy for Psychiatric Disorders – PMC

 

The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue – PMC

 

The Circulatory System and Oxygen Transport – Regulation of Tissue Oxygenation – NCBI Bookshelf

 

Exercise Rehabilitation in Peripheral Artery Disease: Functional Impact and Mechanisms of Benefits – PMC

Patients’ perspectives on foot complications in type 2 diabetes: a qualitative study – PMC

The Effect of Massage on Diabetes and its Complications: A Systematic Review

Varicose Veins | NHLBI, NIH

Benefits of exercise training on coronary blood flow in coronary artery disease patients – PMC

Effect of Back Massage Intervention on Anxiety, Comfort, and Physiologic Responses in Patients with Congestive Heart Failure – PMC

Durability of Effect of Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure – PMC

Increasing cerebral blood flow improves cognition into late stages in Alzheimer’s disease mice – PMC

Effect of Acupuncture or Massage on Health-Related Quality of Life of Hemodialysis Patients – PMC

Vascular Function and Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis: the Role of Physical Activity – PMC

Massage Therapy and Quality of Life in Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Qualitative Study – PMC

Author
Carrie Solomon

Carrie Solomon is a freelance health writer, copywriter, and passionate wellness enthusiast. She’s on a mission to help wellness-focused companies educate, engage, and inspire their audiences to make the world a healthier, happier place. Learn more about her at copybycarrie.com or on LinkedIn.

2 Comments on 7 Health Benefits of Body Massage

  1. The part of your article that talked about how massage therapy can help improve sleep was definitely one I liked reading. I’ve been struggling with sleep recently since I started working more hours at home, and I can’t seem to get my schedule back together. I’ll get some help from a massage parlor in the area so they can assist me with getting some better sleep.

  2. It’s nice that you talked about how one key benefit of massage therapy is the pain relief it offers. My body doesn’t feel good right now and it is giving me some small troubles during daily life. A massage might be just what I need to resolve this issue, so I am thinking seeing a Rolf massage therapist soon.

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