Understanding the Science of Massage: Physiological Effects

Portland Massage TherapyFor thousands of years in cultures across the globe, massage has been a trusted healing modality. Of course, there are still questions surrounding massage, such as how does regular massage support overall health? International researchers have been exploring these and other questions for years. In fact, scientific research has revealed that massage can bring about several important physiological changes, as we outline below. If you’re considering adding consistent massage to your health routine, read on to learn the many benefits you can expect. Once you appreciate how massage supports overall health, you may be more motivated to make time for regular sessions with our Portland massage therapists.

The Physiology of Massage: How Massage Changes the Body

Relaxation and Stress Relief is the one result shared among all massage techniques. Through deep relaxation, massage activates the parasympathetic nervous system. When this “rest and digest” half of the autonomic nervous system is activated, the body flips to healing mode, increasing immune system function among other changes. Multiple studies, including this 2011 research, have found that massage relaxes the autonomic nervous system while decreasing several stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine, also known as adrenaline. NCCAM researchers have also verified that massage can lower blood pressure and heart rate. In other words, you will feel less stressed after a massage, and the decrease in stress will support your overall health.

Reduced Inflammation is a second key benefit of massage. In Science Translational Medicine, Crane and his colleagues studied how massage impacts muscular inflammation. Eleven male participants were directed to exercise until exhausted, to spur exercise-induced muscle damage in their thighs. After massaging just one of each participant’s thighs, the researchers analyzed how massage changed the muscular tissue. Biopsies taken before the study, directly following treatment, and after a 2.5-hour recovery period, showed that massage minimized inflammation in multiple ways. For instance, massage increased the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, cell-secreted proteins that communicate with the immune and nervous systems. Crane and his colleagues concluded that massage has a similar anti-inflammatory effect as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen).

Increased Circulation is another of massage’s benefits. Circulation delivers fresh nutrients and removes cellular waste, so improved circulation often improves overall health. Massage increases circulation of both blood and lymph, for improved oxygen distribution and immunity performance. Improved circulation also benefits the skin, which gains elasticity and tone from regular massage.

As massage is becoming more often recommended in standard medical settings, researchers are driven to produce data on its effectiveness. Validation of massage’s efficacy is required to facilitate medical insurance billing. As scientists continue their research, we will all learn more about how massage impacts the body. Here are a few additional advantages that massage recipients often report. Researchers continue to study how massage delivers these benefits.

  • Improved digestive functioning.
    • Better skeletal balance and posture.
    • Increased range of motion.
    • Boosted flexibility.
    • Reduced fatigue.
    • Enhanced athletic performance.
    • The loosening of adhesions (commonly known as “knots”) and scar tissue.
    • Reduced pain through the release of “feel good” hormones such as serotonin.

If you’re searching for massage therapy in Portland, look no further. Our natural medicine clinic’s warm, personable massage therapists work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals to treat the whole person. We offer many massage treatments, such as Shiatsu massage, an ancient Chinese healing approach that delivers stress relief while also harmonizing the energy meridians. Shiatsu may also be used for diagnostic purposes, to uncover emotional and physical blockages.

We also invite you to learn more about therapeutic massage (deep tissue massage), Amma massage, craniosacral, and Maya Abdominal Therapy, four healing modalities that can provide amazing health benefits. Insurance with acupuncture and naturopathic benefits will often cover massage sessions. Get in touch today to schedule your appointment and enjoy the multi-fold benefits that massage therapy can bring.



[Photo by Joe Zlomek via FreeImages.com]