Massage can help you stay healthy during the winter months!
It’s still mid-winter and many of us are still prone to getting those nasty winter colds and flus. You can pile on the vitamins and try to stay away from other sneezers.. OR — get a massage! Studies show that massage therapy can benefit your immune system.
People who received a 45-minute massage had an increased number of lymphocytes, the white blood cells that play a large role in defending the body from disease, researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles said in a statement back in 2010.
"This research indicates that massage doesn't only feel good, it also may be good for you," said study researcher Dr. Mark Rapaport, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, at Cedars-Sinai.
Massage also affected the participants by bringing about physical changes as well. Afterwards, participants had lower levels of cytokines, which are molecules that play a role in inflammation. Chronically high levels of inflammation are known to be associated with conditions such as asthma, heart disease and depression.
Hormones are affected as well, decreasing cortisol levels (the stress hormone) as well as vasopressin, a hormone believed to play a role in aggressive behavior, according to the researchers.
While my clients come to me seeking out massage as part of a healthy lifestyle, there hasn't been much physiological proof of the body's heightened immune response until recently.
In the study, 29 participants received 45 minutes of Swedish (deeper) massage, and 24 received 45 minutes of light touching as a control. The participating massage therapists were trained in how to deliver both Swedish and light touch using specific and identical protocols.
The subjects were fitted with intravenous catheters in order to take blood samples during the study session, resting quietly for 30 minutes before beginning. Then blood samples were collected from each person just before the massage began. At the end of the 45-minute massage session, blood samples were collected at various intervals after the massage, the longest being 60 minutes.
In a controlled study composed of HIV-positive adolescents, participants who received massage therapy showed enhanced immune function by the end of the 12-week study. The immune changes included increased white blood cells knowns as natural killer (NK) cells, which provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells.
An additional randomized study found women with stage 1 and 2 breast cancer may benefit from massage therapy for enhancing dopamine and serotonin while also increasing NK cell number and lymphocytes. Immediate massage benefits included reduced anxiety while the long-term impact increased serotonin values, natural killer cell numbers and lymphocytes, which work to strengthen the immune system and cognitive function during sickness.
So if these groups received massage therapy and improved their immune systems, just think of what it can do for the average healthy person! You may want to consider making massage a routine part of your healthy lifestyle regimen.