Massage: It's Good Medicine


Having a friend or significant other massage your shoulders at the end of a long day is a nice treat, but it's tough to compete with the hands of a competent professional.  A trained and highly skilled massage therapist can make you feel like a brand new person.  Research even suggests that therapeutic massage can ease insomnia, depression, anxiety, boost immunity, and so much more.  Perhaps this is why hospitals, hospices, and other health care facilities are making massage therapy a standard practice. 

"All of our surgery patients are offered the treatment -- I call it 'service with a smile' -- and it's a mandatory weekly prescription I give myself," says Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., director of the Cardiovascular Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

It's OK to throughly enjoy your hands on time with your friend or significant other, but be sure to set aside some time aside for a professional massage as well.  Here are some compelling reasons why:

Say Farewell to Pain

Therapeutic massage is especially effective for treating specific areas of pain, such as the low back.  Research has found that massage is even more effective in reducing pain as compared to other common treatments like chiropractic and acupuncture.  These studies show that massage therapy reduces levels the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, while boosting the feel-good hormones oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine.  These changes slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and block your nervous system's pain receptors.  Massage also increases blood flow to the muscles, which helps them heal by returning the oxygen and nutrients that tight muscles and surrounding tissue have been deprived of.  As an added bonus, massage eases distress from migraines, labor pains, PMS, and even cancer, as well as the body tenderness associated with Fibromyalgia.  These benefits have been shown to last as long as a year after just a few treatments.  

Awaken Your Dreams

Fluctuations in several types of brain waves either relax you or wake you up.  Massage increases delta waves, which are linked to deep sleep.  This is why it's so easy to drift off on the massage table.  Part of overcoming insomnia is breaking the long-held cycles or habits of the body.  Massage can help break these patterns by activating the parasympathetic nervous system designed for relaxation and sleep.  As a result of this adjustment, the sympathetic nervous system designed for stress (fight or flight) is turned off.   Looking at the chemistry of sleep, the effect massage has on this chemistry provides a solid link between massage therapy and insomnia treatment.  Massage is an intelligent, healthy and substance free choice to help the scores of people that have insomnia.

Boost Your Immune System

Massage helps ward off colds and viruses by increasing the level of natural killer cells (a type of white blood cell) within the body.  These natural killer cells are the immune system's first line of defense against an invading illness.  Cortisol destroys natural killer cells, and since massage decreases levels of cortisol, your immune system gets a nice boost.  Studies have shown massage even increases immunity in individuals with severely compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients.   

Beat the Blues

Less adrenaline and cortisol along with more oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in the body mean less depression, anxiety and stress.  Decreasing pain and muscle tension also improves physical and mental health.  The well-being people feel after a massage is a big reason hospitals offer it to anxious patients preparing for surgery or chemotherapy.  Massage bridges the gap between the mind and the body.  A relaxed body translates to a relaxed mind.