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The Scientific Link Between Massage and Stress

A good massage feels great, we all know that. 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, 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, it always seems so difficult to avoid stress, and we’re usually left with hardly any solution. Fortunately, a massage is always an option, except in cases where it’s contraindicated – for example, if we’re intoxicated.

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 keep getting the benefit, you have to keep getting the massages.

Not that we should be surprised. After all, our world has become stressful, whether we like it or not. It’s just like having to shower everyday. The following day, we go out into the big grimy world again and take another shower, and so on. If you want to maintain safe stress hormone levels, you need to get a massage regularly.

This study was performed some seven years back. Since then, a lot of other studies were done and proved that massage does has this stress reduction effect, although temporary. These consequent studies also particularly emphasized the benefits of massage when done on a continuous 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.

While it’s now clear how massage affects stress, there is no clear explanation why. 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. If it does what it does, then we’ll have 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, 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 best to choose a trained staff to give you a massage.

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