Massage, both light and deep-tissue, has surprising health benefits. Sure, it feels great and can relax and energize your muscles. But now researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have completed a study that shows that massage affects your hormones in important ways.
What are hormones and why should you care? Hormones are basically chemicals in the cells of your body. A hormone is a kind of signal sent out from one cell to your other cells that can affect your body's metabolism-- the chemical reactions that affect, for example, how you feel.
And that's what the study shows massage can do for you-- change how you feel, and for the better. 53 lucky test subjects, according to a New York Times article, had either a 45 minute light massage, or a deep-tissue Swedish massage.
Blood samples taken before and after showed that those that received a light massage gained more oxytocin—our body's natural feel-good hormone, and a reduction in “adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands” to release the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol, also known as hydrocortisone, is released, it suppresses your immune system and can increase your blood sugar.
Those that had a deep-tissue Swedish massage showed an impressive reduction in cortisol and another hormone that may increase cortisol. On top of that, there was an increase in lymphocytes, or white blood cells, that are part of your immune system.
It's one of those seemingly rare cases of something that feels good for you and turns out to actually be good for you. How often does that happen? The new study is a vindication for massage therapy, a practice with a history going back to ancient Mesopotamia that is too often dismissed as having no real health benefits. What's your experience been with massage?
Not everyone is able to get a massage from a trained professional, but you can always practice, or be practiced on, by a loved one or good friend. For a comprehensive list of different types and techniques in basic massage, visit: http://healing.about.com/od/massagetips/Massage_Therapy_Tips.htm
Regimens: Massage Benefits Are More Than Skin Deep