Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Research on Massage Benefits

A study was just published measuring stress and immune system hormones before and after a massage session, with very good results.  From the New York Times:
Regimens: Massage Benefits Are More Than Skin Deep
"Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.

Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol. "
Published: September 20, 2010

The abstract is here:
A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals
Mark Hyman Rapaport, Pamela Schettler, Catherine Bresee. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. -Not available-, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0634.

It's well established that the presence of stress hormones causes or exacerbates many health problems, and that the presence of oxytocin is associated with improved health and happiness.  This study doesn't prove that massage will make you healthier and happier, but we're making progress.

The Times article uses unusual wording for massage; typically Swedish implies light pressure and deep tissue implies stronger pressure.   Neither term is exactly defined or used the same between different professionals or with the public though.  In an actual massage the techniques are usually blended together, and I ask people what their treatment goal is rather than what type of massage they want.

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