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How Massage Fights 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, the importance of stress management is also well-known to us. From time to time, we hear about studies showing how stress can increase our vulnerability to all sorts of health problems, from weight gain to autoimmune diseases such as cancer. Still, many of us find it hard to keep ourselves from being stressed, and we’re often left without much of a 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 fantastic, except that this effect is short-lived. To keep getting the benefit, you have to keep getting the massages.

Not that this is surprising. After all, stress has become but an ordinary part of life. 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. If you want to keep your stress hormones at a safe level, you have to keep getting a massage.

This study was done about seven years ago. Since then, a lot of other studies were done and proved that massage does has this stress reduction effect, although temporary. These latter studies also focused specifically on the benefits of massage if done continuously. As part of a particular research project, nurses were given either massage (25 minutes, 2x a week) or placebo for four weeks straight. At the end of the fourth week, lower cortisol levels were found in the subjects who belonged to the intervention group. This further strengthens earlier conclusions that regular massage can help you maintain a low-stress state.

While the positive effects of massage on stress are now established, the reasons are still unknown. Some say “massage” is no more than an excuse to relieve the guilt of lying down and being unproductive. But whether that’s true or not, it won’t even matter. As long as it does what it does, then we’re having it.

Finally, for other people, it’s the human touch in massage that gives it its power. 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, it’s always best to choose a trained staff to give you a massage.

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