I just made an appointment for a massage. And I don’t feel a bit guilty about telling you! Turns out…that relaxing rubdown comes with medical benefits.
Let's face it, massage has a reputation for being a decadent treat for people who love pampering. For years, I agreed. Though, there were times I justified the extravagance. I remember my first massage. Tom and I were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary at a resort in Sedona. A couple's massage was part of the weekend package. Why not? After 10 years, we could use a little relaxation and romance!
The following year, I decided to run the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. During the training, my hamstrings seized up. I cried like a baby as Wayne, the sports massage therapist drove his elbow into my hip – using trigger point therapy to relax the spasms in my muscle. It worked, but it wasn’t much fun.
For many of us, a massage is self-indulgent unless it’s for therapy or a special occasion. Well, you may not want to wait for a vacation getaway to book your next massage. New studies show massage has a variety of tangible health benefits.
Research over the past couple of years has found that massage therapy boosts immune function in women with breast cancer, improves symptoms in children with asthma and increase grip strength in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. And get this! Giving massages to the littlest patients…premature babies…helped in the crucial task of gaining weight!
The benefits go beyond feelings of relaxation and wellness many of us experience after a massage. The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society now include massage as one of their recommendations for treating low back pain.
New research is revealing what really happens in the body after a massage. There have been many theories about how massage works…from releasing toxins to improving circulation. But these have been fairly nebulous, with little hard evidence.
Now, one study, for example, found a single, 45-minute massage led to a small reduction in the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the blood – a decrease in cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions and a boost in white blood cells that fight infection.
And it’s not just the alternative medicine community singing the praises of massage. The studies on the health benefits of massage are so compelling the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending close to $3 million on massage research this year.
The NIH’s Jack Kline says, “There is emerging evidence that massage can make contributions in treating things like pain, where conventional medicine doesn’t have all the answers.
Stay tuned. The massage therapy field hopes the growing body of research will lead to greater insurance coverage for its treatments.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org