The Benefits of Massage Therapy

A Massage Therapist is a health care professional who provides therapeutic massage. The therapist uses hands, arms and even the feet to manipulate soft tissues like muscles.

Massage Therapy

Massage is thought to increase the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases feelings of stress and anxiety. It also may increase the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that stabilize moods. Visit to learn more.

When people think of massage therapy they typically associate it with relaxation and stress relief. However, this is only one of many ways massage can be beneficial. It can also help reduce anxiety, improve sleep and boost the immune system. Massage therapy is a hands-on technique that involves manipulation of the muscles and soft tissues, using the hands (including fingers, palms, forearms and elbows) to improve blood flow and decrease tension and pain. It is used for a wide variety of conditions and is often covered by health insurance plans.

Research indicates that massage lowers stress levels by stimulating the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. This decreases the activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the production of stress hormones, including cortisol, which increases heart rate and mobilizes fuel stores in preparation for fight or flight situations. Massage is believed to cause a reduction in cortisol levels, resulting in lowered stress and an overall feeling of well being.

A massage is a great way to relieve stress, because it stimulates the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel good chemicals. It also helps with anxiety, because it lowers heart rate and blood pressure and increases serotonin, which calms the body and mind.

Anxiety can be caused by chronic or habitual stress, work-related anxiety and even the anticipation of an invasive medical procedure. Studies have shown that massage reduces feelings of anxiety and depression, improves mood and self-esteem, and lowers the heart rate and blood pressure that are triggered by stress.

A Massage Therapist is a person who has completed a degree or diploma program from a Massage & Bodywork licensure program, or the equivalent amount of education and training, including an internship. He or she is certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, and must pass a background check and obtain CPR certification before working on clients. A Massage Therapist should seek out continuing education courses to remain up-to-date with the latest techniques and research. He or she should also network, attend industry events and create a website to promote his or her services.

Decreases Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of unease and nervousness triggered by our body’s fight-or-flight response. While it’s natural and integral to our survival, chronic stress can trigger this response, causing symptoms such as high heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, and increased alertness — even when we’re “resting.” Regular massage lowers these levels, helping you relax, reduce anxiety, and decrease the symptoms associated with chronic stress.

Consistent anecdotal evidence and positive results from open trials support the view that regular massage therapy significantly reduces the severity of chronic moderate anxiety in general, as well as reducing specific types of anxiety such as test-taking anxiety or anticipating invasive medical procedures.

During a massage, your brain’s pregenual anterior cingulate cortex—which is involved in feelings of happiness and calmness—is activated. In addition, during a massage your body releases the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are known to boost mood and increase motivation and sense of self-worth.

The stress hormone cortisol is also decreased during massage. Cortisol is a main cause of stress and anxiety, and when it is lowered our bodies’ fight-or-flight response is naturally slowed down.

A recent randomized clinical trial tested whether chair massage was an effective treatment for managing state and trait anxiety in patients with psychoactive drug withdrawal. The study randomly assigned participants to receive 10 sessions of either massage or guided relaxation. The participants’ anxiety was measured with the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory at various times throughout the course of the experiment.

The results demonstrated that the patients who received massage had significantly reduced VAS and STAI scores compared to the guided relaxation group. These results show that massage can be an effective tool to help patients manage anxiety in a hospital setting during the withdrawal process. In addition, patients in the massage group reported higher levels of calm and satisfaction with their care compared to those in the guided relaxation group. The study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. [1]

Increases Endorphins

The manipulations of the muscles and tissues by your Massage Therapist prompts the release of the brain chemicals known as endorphins. These neurotransmitters are natural pain relievers and mood enhancers. They also help to decrease cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone.

When a person has high cortisol, it causes the body to over-respond to situations and cause stress and anxiety. When cortisol is decreased it can encourage the healing process after injury or illness and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Studies show that the endorphins produced during massage also help to increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, digestion, learning and more. Low serotonin is associated with anxiety and depression. During massage, the mechanical pressure and movements prompt the brain to produce serotonin and increase the availability of the precursor needed to make it (tryptophan). Massage has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate which is also helpful in decreasing cortisol.

Another important physiological effect of massage is that it increases the positive hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. Epinephrine is a hormone that reflects the sympathetic nervous system activity, whereas norepinephrine is produced by the adrenal medulla and reflects sympathoneuronal activity. Increased levels of these hormones can contribute to higher levels of stress and anxiety, as well as decreased tissue elasticity.

Many people see massage as a way to pamper themselves, and while it certainly is an enjoyable experience, it also provides significant health benefits. Massage has been found to be a beneficial treatment for many common health conditions. Aside from being a great stress reliever, it also helps to decrease the occurrence of depression and anxiety and improves sleep quality. It is important to seek out regular massage sessions, ideally on a weekly basis for the best results. Your Massage Therapist will be able to help you come up with a regular schedule that will work for your individual needs. By making massage a part of your healthy lifestyle, you will reap the benefits long after your session is over. You may even start to look forward to your sessions!

Decreases Pain

Pain is a feeling that occurs when receptors within the skin detect something wrong and send signals to the brain which creates an experience of discomfort. A massage stimulates the autonomic nervous system and increases blood flow which encourages an increase in the production of feel good hormones such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine that decrease feelings of anxiety and depression and replace them with feelings of happiness and relaxation.

The pain reduction is due to an increase in movement around damaged muscle tissue that allows the muscles to stretch their full length and reduces tightness. A decrease in muscle tightness is also a result of the rise in temperature within the muscle tissue that enables the tissue to loosen and relax. A massage is a form of soft tissue therapy that helps to break up the buildup of toxins within the body. The toxins are removed by the lymphatic system which is made up of tiny lymph vessels that transport lymph fluid around the body to glands and nodes to be disposed of. During a massage, friction between the skin and the fingers encourages an increase in lymph flow which helps to eliminate toxins.

One study looked at the effectiveness of massage for reducing pain and found that it was significantly better than sham (fake) treatment and no treatment. The research also showed that massage was effective in treating a wide range of medical conditions including anxiety, back pain, neck pain and migraines.

Hospital inpatients from a medical, surgical and obstetrics unit participated in the research by completing a visual analog scale before and after massage therapy. Participants received 1 or more sessions of massage that lasted 30 minutes each. The patients were only included if their energy levels and health conditions allowed them to participate in the study. Many patients that were suffering from cancer or heart disease were unable to participate in the study and may have found that massage was less effective in reducing their pain, revealing the need for fully integrated pain management services within hospitals in which massage is a part of this approach.