Mental Health and Massage: The Power of Touch Erin Poovey November 7, 2022

Mental Health and Massage: The Power of Touch

In a society where touch is becoming less common, we miss out on experiencing the benefits it can have on our mental and physical health — especially when received in the appropriate and intentional format massage is designed to address.

We all know that it feels good to have a hug or handshake from someone close to you. What many might not know is that there are physiological reasons behind why touch makes us feel good, and which explain why massage therapy can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression.

Below, we explain the benefits that massage can have on, not just our physical health, but our mental health.

Massage Benefits the Mind

When we as humans receive touch, a signal is sent to our brain, which then triggers the release of oxytocin — commonly known as the love drug — as well as the two other happy hormones, serotonin and dopamine.

The touch of Massage Therapy goes even further. Along with boosting the happy hormones, it has been proven to lower the hormone cortisol — a key component in our stress response. While we need this hormone for quick reactions in emergencies, when present long-term, it’s harmful for the overall health of the body.

It’s easy to feel anxious or fall into depression when we’re going through tough times. However, a massage can soothe these feelings. Previous research has found adults asked to relax in a massage chair for 15 minutes, two times per week for five weeks, experienced an increase in frontal delta waves which promoted feelings of relaxation. Meanwhile, frontal alpha brainwaves and the strength of beta waves decreased. This helped adults fall into deep relaxation and decrease their anxiety.

A similar study found that depressed adolescent mothers who received 10, 30-minute sessions of massage therapy over a five-week period had less anxious behavior and reduced heart rates and cortisol levels.

In 2013, a study was conducted that measured the effects of massage in regards to occupational stress experienced by Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses. One group participated in 25-minute massages twice a week for four weeks, while the second group received no massage therapy at all. The results showed a significant decrease in occupational stress scores for the first group, compared to the group that received none — showing the benefits regular massage can have in combating everyday stressors.

Massage Boosts Immunity

Getting a massage not only helps us relax, but also gives our immune system a boost. Receiving a 45-minute massage has been found to increase the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that help defend the body from disease, according to a 2010 study. Other physical changes included: Lower levels of cytokines, molecules that play a role in inflammation and a decrease in vasopressin, a hormone that plays a role in aggressive behavior. One session of massage therapy is enough to produce measurable changes in the body’s immune and endocrine response.

Massage Improves Sleep

About half of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep has affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days. A bad night’s sleep can be remedied with massage therapy, according to the National Institutes of Health. Several studies have found that getting a massage reduced fatigue and improved sleep in infants, children, adults, and the elderly, including those with psychiatric disorders, cancer, and heart disease, among many others. Most studies credit it to massages increasing delta waves, brain waves connected to deep sleep, which would explain why it’s easier to fall asleep on a massage table.

What Level of Frequency Provides These Benefits?

Outside injury recovery, it’s generally said that an hour’s massage every 4-6 weeks is adequate for physical maintenance and general wellbeing, but if you can fit in treatments more regularly, there’s no reason not to.

Massage can still tend to be perceived as a luxury activity, however it’s now starting to be seen as an important mental and physical healthcare component for many people. It is shown not only to decrease pain and tightness in muscles, but also to help relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress, and sleeping disorders.

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If regular massage is something you believe would fit well into your regular routine, we here at Camino Massage would love to speak with you and schedule an appointment. Contact our team today to learn more!