A good massage feels great, we all know that. Is it all in our head? According to science, no. Massage can actually help lower the body’s hormonal markers of stress, and that’s supported by evidence.
Of course, we also know how important stress management is. 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, many of us find it hard to keep ourselves from being stressed, and we’re often left without much of a solution. Fortunately, we can always rely on a nice massage, except when it’s contraindicated (for instance, when we’re inebriated).
According to different studies, it was found that massage reduces cortisol (the infamous 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 we should be surprised. After all, stress is an everyday part of our lives. It’s just like having to shower everyday. On the next day, we get dirty again, take a shower again, and so on and so forth. You have to keep getting a massage if you want to maintain safe stress hormone levels.
This study was done about seven years ago. Since then, many other studies have been performed, proving that massage indeed has this positive effect on stress levels, although short-lived. 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 strengthens earlier findings that it is possible to remain in a low-stress state with regular massage.
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. But true or not, it probably shouldn’t even matter. As long as it does what it does, then we’re having 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, a trained professional is always the best person to provide massage.