Pay attention to your body for just a moment. Do you feel tension in your neck or shoulders? Does your back feel stiff? While some might see massage solely as a luxurious spa treatment, others view the experience as one with positive, long-standing effects. Studies have shown time and again that the power of touch is healing on both mental and physical levels. How could this form of self-care change your life for the better? In honor of National Massage Therapy Awareness Week (Oct. 23-29), let’s take a look at some of the therapy’s top health benefits.
- Decreased stress: Looking to calm a chaotic mind? Massage therapy has been shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol and increase levels of feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin as well as the hormone oxytocin.
- Reduced pain: According to the Institute of Medicine, more than 100 million Americans suffered from chronic pain, or pain lasting more than six months, in 2011. Many chronic sufferers turn to massage, which reduces pain by decreasing inflammation and relaxing muscles.
- Sense of calm and well-being: When the body is in “fight or flight” mode, muscles are tense and the mind is anxious. Touch taps into the relaxation response, which occurs when the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged and the “rest and digest” mode takes over.
- Better sleep and boosted immunity: Studies have shown that massage therapy can reduce fatigue and promote sleep as well as boost white blood cell count. A 2010 study found that getting a massage results in an increased number of lymphocytes, which help defend the body against disease.
- Improved cardiovascular health: Massage therapy can benefit heart health by lowering blood pressure and improving circulation