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The Scientific Link Between Massage and Stress

We all know how relaxing and uplifting a good massage can be. Is it all in our head? Science says no. Massage can actually help decrease hormonal markers of stress, and that’s backed by evidence.

Of course, we also know how important stress management is. 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 rely on a nice massage, except when it’s contraindicated (for instance, when we’re inebriated).

Various studies have proven that massage decreases the body’s cortisol – the stress hormone – levels. Which is great, except that this effect doesn’t really last very long. 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. The following day, we go out into the big grimy world again and take another shower, and so on. If you want to maintain safe stress hormone levels, you need to get a massage regularly.

This study was performed some seven years back. From that time on, plenty other studies were done and proved that massage indeed lowered stress levels in the body, albeit temporarily. These consequent studies also particularly emphasized the benefits of massage when done on a continuous 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. At the end of the fourth week, lower cortisol levels were found in the subjects who belonged to the intervention group. This reinforces earlier conclusions that regular massage is required to help you maintain a low-stress state .

While it’s now clear how massage affects stress, there is no clear explanation why. Some people think “massage” is just excuse for someone who wants to lie still and do nothing for an hour or so. True or not, it doesn’t matter. If it does what it does, then we’ll have it.

Finally, there’s the other perception that massage is all about the human touch. And it could be partly true, because there’s a good amount of research proving that the human touch does provide health benefits. 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.

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