We all know how relaxing and uplifting a good massage can be. Is it all just a feeling? Science says no. Massage can actually help lower the body’s hormonal markers of stress, and that’s supported by evidence.
Of course, we also know how important stress management is. 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, we couldn’t seem to stop ourselves from being stressed, and we’re usually left with barely any solution. Fortunately, we can always rely on a nice massage, except when it’s contraindicated (for instance, when we’re inebriated).
Studies have shown that massage minimizes cortisol (aka stress hormone) levels , the infamous stress hormone. Which is great, except that this effect doesn’t really last very long. To maintain the benefit, you have to maintain the massages.
Not that this is 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. The next day, we get dirty again, take another shower to keep us clean, and so on. You have to keep getting a massage if you want to maintain safe stress hormone levels.
This study was performed some seven years back. Since then, many other studies have been performed, proving that massage indeed has this positive effect on stress levels, although short-lived. These latter studies also specifically pointed to the benefits of massage if done on a regular basis. As part of a particular research project, nurses were given either massage (25 minutes, 2x a week) or placebo for four weeks straight. 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.
Though we can all see that massage can help reduce stress, why it creates that effect is still unknown. Some say “massage” is no more than an excuse to relieve the guilt of lying down and being unproductive. True or not, it doesn’t matter. As long as it does what it does, then we’re having it.
Lastly, some people think the benefits of massage have something to do with the human touch. And it could be partly true, because there’s a good amount of research proving that the human touch does provide health benefits. On the other hand, it is logical to assume that massage also works in other ways, noting that unique methods are used to provide unique effects, such as pain reduction in cancer patients and everyday stress relief. In any case, it’s always good to get your massage from a trained professional.