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Massage as a Stress Buster (And Why It’s NOT All in Your Mind)

We all know how relaxing and uplifting a good massage can be. Is it all just a feeling? According to science, no. Massage can actually help bring down hormonal markers of stress in the body ,and there’s proof to that.

Of course, the importance of stress management is also well-known to us. Everyday, we hear news about new studies showing that stress can make us more vulnerable to all kinds of health issues, from obesity to cancer. Still, we couldn’t seem to stop ourselves from being stressed, and we’re usually left with barely any 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 extend the life of this benefit, you have to keep getting massages.

Not that we should find this surprising. After all, stress is an everyday part of our lives. It’s no different from having to get a shower each day. The following day, we go out into the big grimy world again and take another shower, and so on. If you want to keep your stress hormones at a safe level, you have to keep getting a massage.

This study was performed some seven years back. Since then, many other studies have been performed, proving that massage indeed has this positive effect on stress levels, although short-lived. These latter studies also focused specifically on the benefits of massage if done continuously. In a specific research project involving nurses as subjects, either 25-minute, twice-a-week massages or placebo were given over the course of four consecutive weeks. By the end of the fourth week, nurses in the intervention set were found to have significantly lower cortisol levels. This strengthens earlier findings that it is possible to remain in a low-stress state with regular massage.

While the positive effects of massage on stress are now established, the reasons are still unknown. Some people think “massage” is just excuse for someone who wants to lie still and do nothing for an hour or so. True or not, it doesn’t matter. As long as it does what it does, then we’re having it.

Finally, there’s the other perception that massage is all about the human touch. And this may be partially true, since a good amount of research does prove the health benefits of the human touch. 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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