The Science Behind Massage
Most people who seek out a massage from a professional therapist already know it works for them. They know that they walk in feeling less than their best and walk out feeling much better as the massage imprints its healing effects on the body.
What most people probably don’t know, is the science behind how and why massage can work. The evidence of the link between massage and the healing properties it can bring to the body has been closely studied for years.
Here’s what we know.
Massage and pain
Massage can be used for the relief of temporary pain caused by exercise, tension headaches and other mild ailments, but also to assist in easing discomfort from conditions that cause chronic pain.
Research shows that the physical side of massage can work by relaxing tension in painful muscles, joints and tendons as well as assisting in reducing inflammation resulting in overall pain reduction.
Massage studies have also shown that it can affect the pain messages being sent to the brain by stimulating different nerve fibres to compete with pain receptor nerve fibres.
Massage and circulation
Massage has been linked to increased blood flow and circulation. By applying pressure to muscles to stimulate blood and lymph flow, this contributes to improving the body’s overall circulation. Poor circulation can lead to significant health problems such as diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and the obvious one – muscle pain.
Massage and hormone levels
Studies on massage have shown that it can cause changes to the hormone levels of serotonin and cortisol.
Serotonin (sometimes known as the ‘happy hormone’) is a chemical and neurotransmitter in the body that helps to regulate mood, sleep, memory, appetite and many other key functions.
Cortisol comes from the adrenal gland and assists your body to control your blood pressure, stress response, metabolism and other ‘fight or flight’ associated functions.
Massage has been linked to an increase in serotonin levels which have been known to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression. It has also been linked to a decrease in cortisol levels which are responsible for producing your body’s stress response.
Massage and inflammation
Athletes have long attested to massage therapy’s effect on muscle inflammation and recovery, prompting a string of studies to be conducted on the subject.
Recent studies have shown that on a cellular level, massage can reduce muscle inflammation and simultaneously aid in the growth of ‘mitochondria’ (which are the units within cells that produce energy).
Whilst massage therapy is a topic of ongoing research, the positive results it can produce for such a large and diverse group of the population are proven.