The Immune System Benefits of Massage
Most individuals would readily agree that a professional massage yields numerous benefits for the individual. Not only is it incredibly relaxing, helping the individual to recover from stress, but it can help to relax tense muscles. If that weren’t enough (and for many, it’s definitely plenty), a new study indicates that getting a massage can even be enormously beneficial to your immune system.
Massages and Your Immune System
Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have uncovered the fact that individuals who receive a forty-five minute massage experience an increased number of lymphocytes–the white blood cells that are critical in defending the body from disease. Dr. Mark Rapaport, the chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai, says that this study proves that massage not only feels good and brings about relaxation, but it is also good for one’s immune system and body.
For the study, each of twenty-nine participants received a forty-five minute Swedish massage, and each of twenty-four participants received forty-five minutes of “light touching” as a form of control. These techniques were delivered by massage therapists who had been trained in both Swedish massage and “light touching”. Participants were all equipped with intravenous catheters that allowed researchers to take blood samples. Each session began with thirty minutes of quiet rest, then blood samples were taken. Further blood samples were taken at specific points after the massage session–including at the one, five, ten, fifteen, thirty and sixty minute post-massage points.
Researchers discovered that individuals who receive a forty-five minute massage experience measurable physical changes, such as a lower level of cytokines, which can contribute to inflammation and are often associated with asthma, depression and cardiovascular disease. Massages also seem to work well to decrease the individual’s levels of cortisol and vasopressin, hormones that are related to stress and aggressive behavior.
Dr. Rapaport says that nearly nine percent of all American adults reported that they had at least one massage within the past year, and they often turn to massages as a natural part of healthy lifestyle. Despite this, there has not been much scientific proof before now that massages are actually so beneficial that they can actually improve an individual’s immune response. This may explain why some individuals feel a little better–as though they have recovered from a subtle illness, after they have received a massage. It certainly provides one with another very good reason for scheduling regular massages.