A good massage feels great, we all know that. Is it all in our minds? Based on science, the answer is no. Massage can actually help lower the body’s hormonal markers of stress, and that’s supported by evidence.
Of course, we’re also aware of the importance of stress management. Everyday, we hear news about new studies showing that stress can make us more vulnerable to all kinds of health issues, from obesity to cancer. Still, many of us find it hard to keep ourselves from being stressed, and we’re often left without much of a solution. Fortunately, we can always rely on a nice massage, except when it’s contraindicated (for instance, when we’re inebriated).
Various studies have proven that massage decreases the body’s cortisol – the stress hormone – levels. Which is fantastic, except that this effect is short-lived. To maintain the benefit, you have to maintain the massages.
Not that we should find this surprising. After all, our world has become stressful, whether we like it or not. It’s no different from having to get a shower each day. On the next day, we get dirty again, take a shower again, and so on and so forth. You have to keep getting a massage if you want to maintain safe stress hormone levels.
This study was conducted around seven years ago. From that time on, plenty other studies were done and proved that massage indeed lowered stress levels in the body, albeit temporarily. These latter studies also specifically pointed to the benefits of massage if done on a regular basis. In a specific research project involving nurses as subjects, either 25-minute, twice-a-week massages or placebo were given over the course of four consecutive weeks. At the end of the fourth week, those who were in the intervention group were found to have lower cortisol levels. This strengthens earlier findings that it is possible to remain in a low-stress state with regular massage.
Though we can all see that massage can help reduce stress, why it creates that effect is still unknown. 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. As long as it provides the benefits it does, then we’re all for it.
Lastly, some people think the benefits of massage have something to do with the human touch. And this could be true in a way, considering there’s a good amount of research showing the health benefits of the human touch. On the other hand, massage can also be effective in several other ways, knowing that different methods are used to produce different effects, from pain management to plain and simple reduction. In any case, it’s always best to choose a trained staff to give you a massage.