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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 in our head? Based on science, the answer is no. Massage can actually help lower the body’s hormonal markers of stress, and that’s supported by evidence.

Of course, we’re also aware of the importance of stress management. 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, we couldn’t seem to stop ourselves from being stressed, and we’re usually left with barely any solution. Fortunately, we can always get a massage, unless it’s contraindicated, such as after an acute muscle injury.

Studies have shown that massage minimizes cortisol (aka stress hormone) levels , the infamous stress hormone. And that’s good news, except that this effect isn’t really going to last that long. To keep getting the benefit, you have to keep getting the massages.

Not that we should be surprised. After all, our world has become stressful, whether we like it or not. It’s just like having to take a shower each and 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 conducted around 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 focused specifically on the benefits of massage if done continuously. 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 .

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 good to get your massage from a trained professional.

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