There’s nothing quite like a good massage. It’s relaxing, rejuvenating and can leave you feeling like a completely new person.
But have you ever wondered why massages feel so good?
The benefits of massage are well-known, but what is it about the physical touch of a massage that makes us feel so amazing?
“Massage therapy increases circulation, reduces stress hormones and boosts overall relaxation.”
In this article, we’ll explore the science behind why massages feel good, as well as delve into their many health benefits. From reducing anxiety to improving sleep quality, there are countless reasons why incorporating regular massages into your self-care routine could be one of the best decisions you make for your wellbeing.
So sit back, relax, and prepare to discover everything you need to know about the wonderful world of massage therapy.
Relieves Muscle Tension and Pain
Massage therapy has been shown to provide relief for muscle tension and pain. When muscles are tight and stiff, it can cause discomfort or even intense pain. Massage helps to loosen up the muscles through pressure, stretches, and rubbing techniques which can alleviate that discomfort in a natural way. By applying pressure to specific areas of the body, massage therapists can target the source of your pain and relieve soreness at its roots.
In fact, a study by The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that massage therapy significantly reduced muscle pain compared to those who did not receive any treatment. Not only does massage feel good in the moment, but it’s also an effective way to prevent future pain and help with long-term healing.
Increases Range of Motion
Another benefit of massage is that it can help increase your range of motion. When muscles are tense or overworked, they can become tighter and less flexible. This can lead to stiffness and a limited range of motion. Massage works by targeting specific muscles that may be causing discomfort, relaxing them, and making movement easier.
A study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork noted that patients experienced increased shoulder mobility after receiving regular massages. This is particularly beneficial for people with conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, where joint movement can be restricted and painful. Massage therapy can provide some much-needed relief and improve overall quality of life.
Relaxes Tight Muscles
Muscle tension or knots can occur due to stress, injuries, poor posture, or repetitive motions in daily life. These tight muscles can lead to headaches, neck pain, back pain, and other issues. Fortunately, massage therapy is one of the most effective ways to combat these problems.
Massage can help relax tight muscles and knots through a variety of techniques that are designed to target specific areas. Applying pressure, stretching out tense areas, or using a combination of both, massage therapists can gently loosen up the muscles for easier movement and pain relief.
Alleviates Chronic Pain
Massage therapy is an effective natural treatment option for chronic pain sufferers. People who suffer from conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, or even cancer often find relief from regular massage appointments.
A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that patients with lower back pain experienced significant improvements after receiving just ten massages over a period of time. It’s not just about reducing pain levels either; massage has also been shown to have positive effects on mental health. By promoting relaxation and a sense of well-being, many people feel happier and more content when they receive regular massage treatments.
“The benefits of massage are vast and include things like increased flexibility and mobility, improved mood, better sleep, and reduced stress.” -Erica Hornthal, LCSW, BC-DMT, CTP, licensed clinical social worker and board-certified dance therapist.
There are many ways that massage therapy feels good! From relieving muscle tension and chronic pain to increasing range of motion and promoting relaxation, regular visits with a massage therapist can provide numerous benefits for your physical and emotional well-being.
Improves Blood Circulation
One of the main reasons why massage feels good is because it improves blood circulation. By applying pressure and manipulating soft tissues, a massage therapist can help increase blood flow throughout the body.
The benefits of improved blood circulation go beyond just feeling relaxed. It can also help enhance the function of internal organs by delivering nutrients and oxygen more efficiently.
Enhances Oxygen Delivery
Muscles require oxygen to function properly, and massages can aid in enhancing oxygen delivery to these muscles. This is particularly important for athletes or those who are physically active as it helps prevent muscle fatigue.
A study conducted by the University of Illinois found that post-workout massages increased capillary dilation, allowing for greater oxygenation of muscles and helping them recover faster.
Reduces High Blood Pressure
In addition to aiding with blood circulation and oxygen delivery, massages have been linked to decreased high blood pressure. Hypertension is a condition affecting millions worldwide, and regular sessions with a massage therapist may be helpful.
Research indicates that individuals who received regular massages had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to those who did not receive massages. The American Massage Therapy Association reports that “massage therapy has been shown to reduce diastolic and systolic blood pressure while also decreasing salivary cortisol levels” which is known as the stress hormone.
“Massage can decrease anxiety, pain, and sympathetic nervous system activity all factors associated with hypertension.” – American Massage Therapy Association
All in all, massages offer numerous health benefits beyond just relaxation. Improved blood circulation, enhanced oxygen delivery and reduced high blood pressure are some of the major physical changes that occur during each session of massage which makes it worthwhile. So next time you schedule a massage appointment, know that not only will you be pampered but also reaping the rewards of a healthier body!
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Have you ever noticed that after getting a massage, you feel more relaxed and at ease? This is because massage therapy can help reduce stress and anxiety. When we experience stress, our bodies enter into fight or flight mode, activating our sympathetic nervous system and releasing cortisol – a stress hormone.
Massage therapy works to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us rest and relax. Through the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, massages can create positive feelings and decrease levels of stress hormones in the body. A recent study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that massage therapy can lower cortisol levels by an average of 31%.
This reduction in stress not only makes you feel better physically but also mentally. You may notice improvements in your mood as your tension and worries dissipate during the session.
“Massage has been shown to increase delta waves in the brain, which are associated with deep sleep. By reducing stress and promoting relaxation, it’s no wonder why people who receive regular massages report sleeping better overall.” – Dr. Tiffany Field, Director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine
Boosts Mood and Energy
In addition to reducing stress, massage therapy can boost your mood and energy levels. Regular massages have been linked to increased feelings of happiness and positivity, as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. During a massage, your muscles relax, and the endorphin release mentioned earlier leads to immediate feelings of euphoria.
The physical relief felt after a massage can help improve your energy levels as well. Often when we’re feeling sore or tight, we aren’t our most productive selves; receiving a massage can help undo this pain so that you feel more able to tackle your day-to-day tasks. By increasing circulation, massage therapy can help reduce feelings of fatigue and promote overall wellness.
“There are a lot of studies showing that massage reduces depression and anxiety and even boosts the immune system.” – Dr. Mark Hyman, Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine
Calms Nervous System
Chronic pain or exposure to stressful situations can lead our bodies into overdrive mode, leading us to deal with symptoms such as chronic tension headaches, muscle stiffness, etc. Thankfully massage therapy aims to calm this overstimulated nervous system, which in turn can alleviate many of these discomforts. Regular massages have been proven to decrease heart rates, lower blood pressure, and improve gut health.
In addition, regular appointments are recommended because they create lasting results on the body’s ability to self-regulate. Think of it like periodic maintenance on your car; you wouldn’t hold off on changing out fluids and oil because those components power the whole machine. Similarly, ensuring proper upkeep through sessions helps keep all parts of your body working correctly so that the nervous system doesn’t slip back into unrested cycles.
“Massage therapy works miracles by taking people out of their sympathetic dominant state.” – David Lauterstein, author of The Deep Massage Book: How to Combine Structure and Energy in Bodywork
Sleep is a crucial aspect of our daily lives, yet getting healthy rest can be a particularly daunting task for many individuals. Whether caused by insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg disorder, or any other issue, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep negatively affects numerous facets of life.
An area where massage has well-known benefits is its efficacy at promoting better sleep indirectly linked to turning down certain stimuli in the brain and making it easier for the human body to organically relax. Thus you can stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation while decreasing stress symptoms.
Massages are a great way to support healthy sleeping habits as sessions can help deepen slow-wave sleep and REM sleep—the two most critical types of restful sleep that aid our bodies’ natural healing processes.
“Massage is a simple and powerful intervention that can significantly impact cortisol levels and quality of sleep.” – Mark R. Rapaport, Chair Department of Psychiatry Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, L.A., California
Boosts the Immune System
A healthy immune system is vital for maintaining overall wellness. Our body’s defense mechanism involves various complex structures, organs, and networks that work together to protect us from harmful invaders like viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Any compromise in the immune response can lead to illness, infections, or increased susceptibility to disease.
Fortunately, massage therapy has been shown to have a beneficial impact on our immune function. A study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center revealed that just one session of Swedish massage had an immediate effect on decreasing cortisol levels -one of the stress hormones- as well as boosting white blood cell count, which helps fight off infections.
“A single session of Swedish massage produces measurable biological effects and may have potential clinical implications.” -Dr. Mark Rapaport, Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Increases White Blood Cell Count
White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, are cells that form part of the immune system and play a crucial role in defending against illness and infection. They help identify and attack foreign pathogens while maintaining the integrity of the body’s tissues.
Research suggests that massage therapy can stimulate an increase in the activity of white blood cells, particularly natural killer cells (NK), a type of lymphocyte that plays a critical function in identifying and killing cancerous cells and virus-infected cells in the body. According to studies, massage can increase the number of circulating NK cells, resulting in enhanced immunity. Also, it showed greater improvement in patients with compromised immune function like people living with HIV.
“Massage seems to be more preventative than symptomatic…it boosts your immune system and decreases inflammation…It could definitely add years to your life,” said Ellen Wermter, RN at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego.
Stimulates Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes that are responsible for maintaining the body’s fluid balance and fighting infections. It serves as a drainage system that removes waste products, bacteria, viruses and brings immune cells to areas needing attention. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like the heart that circulates blood throughout our body. Instead, it depends on external factors like muscle contractions or manual stimulation (like massage) to keep things flowing efficiently.
Massage therapy can help stimulate the flow of lymphatic fluids by applying pressure or gentle squeezing motions aimed towards specific lymph nodes. By doing so, it assists the elimination of toxins, reduces inflammation and swelling and improves overall immune response. Swedish massage modalities, combined with techniques such as effleurage or petrissage, proved to be effective in enhancing tissue perfusion above baseline values and explaining the reduction of edema.
“Massage helps move lymphatic fluid around – an effect which only occurs when there’s movement within our tissues…It enables harmful substances in the lymph to be removed from the body- it really aids detoxification.” -Lynnette Round, Technical Director of Complementary Therapies, Christie NHS Foundation Trust
Inflammation is a natural bodily process that happens when we experience injuries, infection or irritation; resulting in redness, pain or swelling at the affected area while mobilizing our immune response agents to promote healing. Nevertheless, chronic inflammation may lead to other kinds of diseases over time.
Studies have demonstrated massage benefits clinical outcomes reducing inflammatory markers such as CRP, TNF-a, decreasing local swellings and alleviating discomfort. Through various mechanisms, massage promotes changes leading to suppression of pro-inflammatory cytokines which signal the downstream inflammatory response in injured tissues. Massage acts at the systems-level impacting our immune-endocrine pathways and reversing stress-related hormone imbalances reducing inflammation.
“Some studies show that massage can decrease inflammation (a way your body responds to injury or infection)….We don’t know exactly why this happens, but we guess it has to do with how massage affects your body’s cells.” -National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Detoxifies the Body
Toxins are everywhere: air pollution, contaminants present in food, pesticides, alcohol consumption -the list goes on. They enter our bodies through various channels, disrupt cellular metabolism and eventually cause medical problems. As our organs like liver and kidney work hard to keep us healthy, toxins can still accumulate within environmental exposure. This buildup may lead to long-term effects such as chronic diseases.
Massage therapy has been suggested to aid toxin removal by stimulating blood circulation and lymphatic flow. By improving the function of these structures, they more efficiently carry harmful substances from muscles and bodily fluids flushing them out towards cleansing organs. Moreover, bodywork modalities increasing respiratory rates driving efficient elimination of gaseous toxins excreted through the lungs than spontaneously occurring in unassisted conditions.
“As the therapist manually removes waste products…circulation of both the patient’s blood and lymphatic fluid/drains move along swiftly carrying away any toxic material…bodywork helps with detoxification,” said Dr. Jeffrey Aroesty of Mind-Body Connection in Pittsburgh
Enhances Overall Well-being
Massage therapy is known to provide a multitude of benefits that contribute to your overall well-being. It helps in releasing the built-up stress and tension in the body, which can lead to various physical and mental health problems. Unlike medication or surgery, massage therapy focuses on natural healing without any side effects.
It has been found that regular massages have numerous positive effects on the body’s immune system, blood circulation, range of motion, and flexibility. This, in turn, leads to better sleep quality, improved digestion, and reduced anxiety and depression levels.
“The cells in your body react to everything that your mind says. Negativity brings down your immune system.” – Unknown
The digestive system plays an important role in maintaining overall health and wellness. When this system is not functioning correctly, it can cause several issues such as bloating, constipation, acid reflux, and malabsorption. Massage therapy has proven to be beneficial for people who suffer from these types of gastrointestinal disorders.
A study published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice found that abdominal massage improved bowel movements in patients with constipation. Another study conducted by Harvard Medical School showed that massages increased vagal activity, which helps regulate the digestive system.
“There are no secrets that time does not reveal, complex tissues regain their vitality through massage.” -Hippocrates
Muscle stiffness and limited mobility are common problems faced by many individuals due to poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, or past injuries. The stretching and manipulation techniques used during a massage session help increase joint mobility and muscle flexibility.
Research indicates that massages increase the production of lubricants between the muscle fibers, making them more pliable and elastic. This enhances the range of motion in a specific area, reduces muscle tension, and improves overall flexibility.
“The body is like a piano, and happiness is played on every key.” -Unknown
Boosts Cognitive Function
Mental fatigue, memory loss, and lack of focus are common symptoms experienced by individuals dealing with stress or anxiety. Massage therapy helps in reducing these problems by inducing relaxation and improving blood circulation to the brain.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that weekly massages significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in patients who suffered from mood disorders. Another study conducted by the Touch Research Institute showed that massage increased alpha waves, which are associated with improved cognitive function and alertness.
“The mind is everything; what you think, you become.” -BuddhaIn conclusion, massage is an effective way to relieve physical pain, mental stress, and improve overall health and wellness. With regular sessions, one can reap the numerous physical and mental benefits that come along with it. So why does massage feel good? It is not only because of the relaxed state after a session but also due to the many benefits it provides for the body and mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens to your body during a massage that makes it feel good?
During a massage, your body releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers that make you feel good. The massage also increases blood flow, which helps to reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation. The pressure applied during a massage can also stimulate the release of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that help to regulate mood and promote feelings of happiness.
Why do we feel relaxed after a massage?
Massages help to reduce stress by lowering the levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress, and it can cause feelings of anxiety and tension. Massage also helps to increase the production of oxytocin, which is a hormone that promotes feelings of relaxation and well-being. The physical touch of a massage can also have a calming effect on the nervous system.
How does massage affect our mood and mental health?
Massage can have a positive effect on mood and mental health by reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. It can also improve sleep quality and decrease symptoms of PTSD. Massage can also help to increase the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers that can promote feelings of happiness and well-being. The physical touch of a massage can also help to reduce feelings of loneliness and improve social connectedness.
Why do different types of massage feel different?
Different types of massage feel different because they use different techniques and focus on different areas of the body. For example, a Swedish massage involves long strokes and kneading, while a deep tissue massage uses more pressure and focuses on deeper layers of muscle tissue. A hot stone massage uses warm stones to help relax muscles. Each type of massage has its own unique benefits and can be tailored to fit the needs of the individual.
What are the physiological benefits of massage that make it feel good?
Massage can have a number of physiological benefits that contribute to feelings of relaxation and well-being. It can reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and increase range of motion. Massage can also help to lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation, and boost the immune system. The physical touch of a massage can also have a calming effect on the nervous system, which can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.