Massage Found to Boost Immune System
Almost nine percent of American adults have gotten at least one massage in the past year. (We won't ask about the rates of American adults traveling in Thailand...) And while getting massages may have just seemed like a luxury, now we have strong evidence that it's actually much more than that.
The folks at Cedars-Sinai, that LA hospital where all the celebs go, undertook the first large, systematic study of the health benefits of massage. Of course they did: If anyone were going to do a study on massage, it would be the Angelenos. As stated in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the purpose of the study was "to determine the effects of a single session of Swedish massage on neuroendocrine and immune function." The study compared one group of people receiving Swedish massage to another group receiving light touch. Before the study, each participant was deemed to be physically healthy and mental disorder free (not just relative to the rest of Hollywood). To keep the study all consistent and science-like, the massage therapists were trained to deliver Swedish and light touch using identical, specific techniques (we're so relieved that they wouldn't let the masseurs go all rogue on the table: No one needs a deflated boob or broken Cartier on their wrist).
Testing various blood samples that they collected from participants both before and after their massages, the researchers found those who had received Swedish massages experienced a significant boost to their immune systems. They measured different hormones and white blood cells, and found that the Swedish massage increased the number of circulating lymphocytes (white blood cells that help defend the body against disease), decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and large decreases in Arginine Vasopressin, a hormone that has a variety of actions in the body, including raising blood pressure, and which is believed to play a role in aggressive behavior. They also noted a decrease in levels of cytokines, which can significantly increase inflammation in the body.
Manhattan Integrative Medicine physician Dr. Jill Baron explains what all of this means: "This study, coupled with other studies showing the health benefits of massage, lends credence to using massages to reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, enhance mood and especially boost the immune system." And with further testing, these findings could be used to help manage inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
Now we just need insurance companies to get on the bandwagon and start paying for weekly massages--hey, it's all in the name of enhancing health and well-being. Not to mention the fact that massages also help keep flip-outs on your coworkers to a minimum, which alone is enough reason to keep those paws up on you.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (2010, September 9). Adults demonstrate modified immune response after receiving massage, researchers show. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100908094809.htm