Most of us know how wonderful a good massage can feel, and I’m sure that a lot of us have wondered if it actually benefits us other than just helping us relax. Researchers must have pondered this question as well, because they have recently completed a study on the benefits of massage.
The researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles signed up 53 healthy adults for the study. A 45-minute massage of deep-tissue Swedish massage was given to 29 of the randomly selected adults. The other, not so lucky, 24 were assigned a session of light massage.
Intravenous catheters were fitted on all the participants so that blood samples could be taken right before the massage and up to an hour after the massage. The researchers, who were sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, were amazed when they discovered that only one session of massage resulted in biological changes.
The volunteers who were given the Swedish massage had a substantial reduction in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood and saliva and in arginine vasopressin, which is a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had more lymphocytes, which are white blood cells, that are an element in the immune system. Most of us know that the immune system helps to keep us healthy.
The volunteers of the light massage group encountered more increases in oxytocin, a hormone linked with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and larger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to supply cortisol.
Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, a lead author and chairman of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai, called the conclusion “very, very intriguing and very, very exciting – and I’m a skeptic.”
The study was published online in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.