We all know how relaxing and uplifting a good massage can be. Is it all just a feeling? According to science, no. Massage can actually help decrease hormonal markers of stress, and that’s backed by evidence.
Of course, we also know how important stress management is. Every now and then, we read or hear about news confirming the big role stress plays in the development of various diseases and medical conditions, from cancer to obesity and everything else. Still, it always seems so difficult to avoid stress, and we’re usually left with hardly any solution. Fortunately, we can always get a massage, unless it’s contraindicated, such as after an acute muscle injury.
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 this is surprising. After all, stress has become but an ordinary part of life. It’s just like having to take a shower each and everyday. 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. 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. By the end of the fourth week, nurses in the intervention set were found to have significantly lower cortisol levels. This reinforces earlier conclusions that regular massage is required to help you maintain a low-stress state .
While the positive effects of massage on stress are now established, the reasons are 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. If it does what it does, then we’ll have it.
Finally, there’s the other perception that massage is all about 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, 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, a trained professional is always the best person to provide massage.