Is Massage Actually Good For You?

shoulder and back massage

New science sheds some light!

Article written by Katie Drummond for Prevention Magazine

We’re going to guess you don’t need an excuse to get a massage. But if you can’t afford a weekly spa trip (and frankly, who can?), you’re going to have to get really good at sweet-talking your husband into helping you out now and then. Not easy, we know. But we have some new ammo—and we have a new study from Emory University to back us up.

Over a period of five weeks, study participants received a Swedish massage—characterized by long, flowing strokes—once or twice a week. Compared to those who didn’t get the lucky task of getting massaged in the name of science, those who received massage therapy had lower levels of stress hormones, including cortisol. They also experienced big changes in immunity, including increased counts of white blood cells, which play a key role in fending off illness and infection.And it gets better: The benefits of massage lasted for several days, and each subsequent massage offered a cumulative benefit. In other words, a routine massage ritual is superior to an occasional rub.

“The act of massage itself has amazing biological effects,” says lead study author Mark Hyman Rapaport, MD, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. “Of course, a single session will do great things for the body, but regular sessions seem to be even more profound.”

Anyone who enjoys massage should consider indulging regularly, says Dr. Rapaport, who adds that self-massage (for those of you with a reticent beau) has the potential to be a beneficial—and cost-effective—option.

If self-massage is something that appeals to you and your budget, check out these tips from Maureen Moon, a massage therapist and former president of the American Massage Therapy Association:

Focus on your face. Relieve tension and muscle strain caused by stress, fatigue, or staring at a computer screen by working on your face, says Moon. Firmly run your fingers up and down your forehead and then along each eyebrow before applying gentle pressure to eyelids and around the temples.

Oil your feet. Using peppermint or eucalyptus oils, briskly rub the tops of your bare feet several times. From there, rub and rotate each toe and use fingers to firmly draw diagonal lines along the soles of each foot.

Give yourself a hand. Aside from being easy to do on-the-go, a hand massage also relieves tension throughout the body. Tug and rotate each finger, says Moon, and then use fingers or knuckles to draw circles on the inside of your hand.