The Benefits of Massage

Once considered a luxury, massage is now used to heal injuries, relieve symptoms of certain health conditions, and promote overall wellness. However, some claims about the benefits of massage are supported only by limited and low-quality research.


We know that massage decreases the sympathetic nervous system activity that drives your “fight or flight” response and increases parasympathetic activity that leads to relaxation and rest. But what else can it do? Visit for more information.

A relaxing massage can be an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. The physical manipulation of soft tissue increases blood flow and releases feel-good hormones such as endorphins and oxytocin. This improves the body’s ability to use oxygen and nutrients and helps reduce toxins, leading to better overall health and wellness. The feeling of relaxation can continue well after a massage is finished and can be complemented by other self-care methods such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.

Studies show that even ten minutes of massage significantly boosts psychological and physiological levels of relaxation. This is due to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and is independent of the type of massage used. Even just sitting down and resting produces the same results. Massage also increases heart rate variability, another indication of the PNS’s activation.

Massage also stimulates the circulation of lymph, which carries immune cells throughout the body. This can help fight off infections and reduce inflammation, which may be why some people with autoimmune diseases find relief from regular massage therapy. Massage has also been shown to lower inflammatory cytokines and cortisol, helping the body reach an optimal anti-inflammatory state.

A good massage can help with back pain, neck and shoulder problems, and soft-tissue strains. It can also relieve jaw tension caused by clenching or grinding (bruxism), which is often a sign of stress. Massage can reduce the occurrence of these conditions by loosening the muscles and tendons and improving range of motion.

While many people seek out a professional massage therapist, self-massage is easy and can be done anywhere. You can also practice massage techniques with a partner or friend to create a calming environment and share the benefits of the experience together.

Relaxation is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and can be achieved through activities such as yoga, meditation, or spending time with friends. For those with more serious health concerns, regular massage can also be a great way to alleviate stress and improve general well-being. Talk to your therapist about your specific concerns and what techniques might work best for you.

Pain Relief

Pain relief is a primary reason that many people seek massage therapy. The pain may be caused by injury, overuse, or simply from the rigors of daily life. While the pain may be minor, sometimes it can signal serious issues such as scoliosis or cancer.

When muscles are injured the body’s natural response is to tighten all surrounding muscles in an attempt to stabilize and protect the damaged muscle. This restricts movement and further increases the pain. Massage decreases pain by decreasing the tightened muscles and increasing blood flow to the area. Massage also stimulates the release of endorphins, the feel good hormones that act as the body’s natural analgesics.

The friction created by the skin and fingers during massage increases blood flow to the treatment area. This blood flow carries heat, nutrients and oxygen to the affected muscles, causing them to relax and warm up. This in turn increases the elasticity of the muscles allowing them to stretch more easily. The blood flow also carries away metabolic wastes, which reduces swelling and inflammation.

Aside from the physiological benefits of increased blood flow, massage has been shown to relieve pain by blocking nerve signals sent to the brain. By stimulating the larger, outer nerves with pressure, massage can block the slower, thinner inner nerves that send pain messages to the brain. This is called the gate control theory of pain relief.

In addition to the feel good hormones that are released during massage, it also stimulates the production and release of positive hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. These hormones act to further reduce stress and anxiety in the body. This reduction in stress and anxiety helps the body to heal faster. In fact, one study showed that a therapeutic massage significantly decreased the length of time it took to recover from an injury when compared to the control group that did not receive the massage. A reduction in pain, increased relaxation and an increase in sleep are additional benefits of massage that help the body to heal. While there are some risks to massage, such as bruising and a rare form of muscular injury called rhabdomyolysis (a condition that results in the death of muscle fibers) the vast majority of massage side effects are mild or moderate in nature.

Decreased Anxiety

Stress is a part of life, but too much can be harmful. When the body experiences high levels of stress, it can affect the immune system and lead to mental health issues like anxiety. Massage can help reduce these symptoms by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, decreasing cortisol and stimulating the production of feel good hormones such as endorphins.

Researchers have found that massage decreases the occurrence of anxiety and depression by helping people to sleep better and lowering the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine also increase, which can improve mood. This is why many people who have trouble sleeping due to chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia or congestive heart failure find relief through regular massage therapy.

Anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, including work pressure, family problems, financial worries or an unhealthy diet. Regardless of the cause, it can lead to tension and restlessness at night making it difficult to fall asleep. Studies have shown that a relaxing massage before bedtime can help alleviate this problem by calming the nerves, allowing you to relax and fall into a deeper state of sleep.

Studies have found that massage can lower your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, all of which are known to decrease anxiety. It can also increase the production of pain-killing chemicals and the body’s natural stress-fighting hormones enkephalins and endorphins, all of which contribute to a more relaxed state of mind.

One study of 74 nurses suffering from fibromyalgia found that receiving two massages a week for six weeks decreased their levels of anxiety and helped them sleep better. Another study (DB-RCT) involving 50 women with fibromyalgia found that a combination of connective tissue massage and manual lymphatic drainage reduced the pain, anxiety and fatigue associated with the condition.

The most common benefit of massage for anxiety is reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosting feelings of happiness by increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. In addition, massage helps to encourage relaxation psychologically by putting the person in a positive frame of mind and reducing self-doubt and feelings of loneliness.

Better Sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential for your health. It gives your body the chance to rest and heal, which allows your immune system to fight off infection, maintains a healthy weight, and promotes a strong cardiovascular and respiratory system. It also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which is key for maintaining a balanced mood and keeping you feeling energized and alert during the day. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it could be caused by stress, physical injury or a medical condition. In many cases, GPs prescribe medication to help with insomnia and other sleep disorders, but holistic methods like massage therapy can be just as effective.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing found that subjects who received a back massage for just 3 minutes slept half an hour longer than those who did not receive one. The reason for this is that a massage stimulates the vagus nerve, which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body and mind. This causes your heart rate and blood pressure to decrease, muscle tension to relieve, and breathing to slow down, all of which help you get a better night’s sleep.

Another way that a massage can improve your sleep is by reducing the level of cortisol in the body, which is the main stress hormone that disrupts our natural melatonin levels. A reduction in this hormone will allow your body to relax more easily, helping you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Lastly, a massage will reduce the stiffness in your neck and shoulders, which can often cause you to wake up at night. This is because these areas are very prone to tension and tightness, particularly when you’re stressed or have been sitting down for long periods of time. If this is a problem for you, try booking a deep tissue massage earlier in the day (not just before bed!) to help release that tension and keep you sleeping well.