A good massage feels great, we all know that. Is it all in our minds? According to science, no. Massage can actually help decrease hormonal markers of stress, and that’s backed by evidence.
Of course, the importance of stress management is also well-known to us. 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).
According to different studies, it was found that massage reduces cortisol (the infamous stress hormone) levels. Which is fantastic, except that this effect is short-lived. To keep getting the benefit, you have to keep getting the massages.
Not that we should find this surprising. After all, stress is an everyday part of our lives. It’s just like having to take a shower each and everyday. On the next day, we get dirty again, take a shower again, and so on and so forth. If you want to maintain safe stress hormone levels, you need to get a massage regularly.
This study was done about 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 further strengthens earlier conclusions that regular massage can help you maintain a low-stress state.
While the positive effects of massage on stress are now established, the reasons are 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. But whether that’s true or not, it won’t even matter. As long as it does what it does, then we’re having it.
Finally, for other people, it’s the human touch in massage that gives it its power. 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 work in any other ways, considering the various methods used to achieve different effects, from plain and simple stress reduction to pain management for cancer patients. In any case, it’s always best to choose a trained staff to give you a massage.