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How Massage Fights Stress

We all know how a good massage can make us feel relaxed and refreshed. Is it all just a feeling? Based on science, the answer is 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. From time to time, we hear about studies showing how stress can increase our vulnerability to all sorts of health problems, from weight gain to autoimmune diseases such as cancer. Still, it always seems so difficult to avoid stress, and we’re usually left with hardly any solution. Fortunately, we can always rely on a nice massage, except when it’s contraindicated (for instance, when we’re inebriated).

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 extend the life of this benefit, you have to keep getting massages.

Not that this is surprising. After all, stress is an everyday part of our lives. It’s just like having to take a shower each and everyday. The following day, we go out into the big grimy world again and take another shower, and so on. If you want to keep your stress hormones at a safe level, you have to keep getting a massage.

This study was done about seven years ago. Since then, a lot of other studies were done and proved that massage does has this stress reduction effect, although temporary. 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. At the end of the fourth week, lower cortisol levels were found in the subjects who belonged to the intervention group. 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 people think “massage” is just excuse for someone who wants to lie still and do nothing for an hour or so. But true or not, it probably shouldn’t even 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, 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, it’s always best to choose a trained staff to give you a massage.

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