Massage Therapy | What does the science say?

By Jess Brady

JessMassage is one of the most popular health and wellness techniques available without a prescription, with approximately 20% of all adult Americans receiving at least one massage per year on average.  Despite its popularity, massage is an under-researched field, leaving many consumers confused as to it’s true benefits. Like many other industries, many massage therapists tend to give the practice a bad name by making unsubstantiated claims about their abilities.  In this article, I’d like to present to you a few benefits that ARE backed by research and should make you feel good about your choice to treat yourself to a massage:

  • Massage therapy reduces blood pressure- Evidence confirms that consistent massage therapy sessions reduce blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic, immediately following the sessions as well as in the long term.
  • Massage therapy can have a positive impact on hormonal balance- Research shows a significant decrease in cortisol, the body’s “stress hormone” immediately following massage.  Cortisol has a drastic impact on many points in health and fitness, including weight management and anxiety. Controlling this vital hormone can be a game-changer!
  • Muscle knots or “Trigger Points”- One of the most controversial topics in massage is the validity of the what is commonly referred to as a “knot” in the muscle tissue, and the techniques that claim to “fix” those knots.  While more research needs to be done to determine why these knots arise in the first place, we do know that many causes localized pain stem from areas of high tension in the muscle tissue. Some believe that knots are actually mini cramps within the muscle fibers, while others believe that knots are strictly the result of increased nervous system activity.  If your therapist claims to have a definitive answer as to where the knots come from, find a new therapist, because the true answer is that we just don’t know yet. What we DO know, is that a skilled massage therapist can help alleviate, at least temporarily, the pain associated with the knot in question.
  • Other various evidence-based benefits: Massage has also been demonstrated to have a positive impact on everything from arthritis, to cancer, to autism.

I hope this article has made one point abundantly clear:

Massage is not a luxury reserved for treating yourself once per year, rather it should be considered an integral component to any health and wellness plan you’re following in the new year.


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