Benefits of Massage
When we are in chronic stress, our body is operating from the sympathetic nervous system, the 'flight or fight' response and it can be difficult to come out of this response once it is triggered. Massage can encourage us into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the 'rest and repair' state.
There are numerous other benefits experienced as the result of a massage, some of which are very tangible, such an increase in joint mobility or lessening of a muscular ache. Others are harder to define, such as an increase in a feeling of wellbeing or a sense of let go.
Here are some of the benefits of massage that have been defined by scientific research.
- Compared to no treatment, massage therapy should be strongly recommended as a pain management option. Massage can have the effect of reducing pain and improving mood, reducing anxiety, and improving health-related quality of life (Crawford et al meta analysis 2016)
- Massage reduces the intensity and severity of musculoskeletal pain and it reduces pain generally, measured by patient perception (Crawford et al meta analysis 2016)
- Massage is better at reducing anxiety than any other treatment studied (Crawford et al meta analysis 2016)
- Massage benefits may include improvements in body image esteem, pain management and the therapeutic value of touch and it could play a preventative role in a decline in emotional wellbeing (Munk and Zanjani 2011)
- Research indicates that massage therapy has a positive impact on emotional wellbeing, in both healthy adults and those with mental health conditions (MTI Research Group 2017)
- Massage therapy may promote a parasympathetic response by reducing blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of anxiety (C.A. Moyer, James Rounds and James W. Hannum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Psychological Bulletin, 2004 Vol 130)
- Massage can boost white blood cell count by up to 70% in the hour following treatment, improving the functioning of the immune system (Fulvio D’Acquisto, University of Roehampton and Bodyology massage school 2018. For more information see the BBC Two Trust Me I'm a Doctor episode that details the research findings)
- BBC One's The Truth About Boosting Your Immune System also explains the scientific research on massage and immunity
- Massage is also recommended by the National Institute for Care Excellence as one element of treatment for lower back pain: "Consider manual therapy (spinal manipulation, mobilisation or soft tissue techniques such as massage) for managing low back pain with or without sciatica, but only as part of a treatment package including exercise" (NICE Guidelines on treating lower back pain in over 16s, 2016).