Massage therapy has many benefits, but many of them are mostly physical. A few of these include reduced muscle tension, improved blood circulation, improved joint flexibility and mobility, muscle pain relief, faster recovery from injury, and even a better skin tone. These benefits are widely accepted. What is perhaps less understood are massage therapy benefits for stress.
Could a well-timed rub-down relieve stress and improve your mood?
Do Massages Help Relieve Stress?
Studies prove massage therapy has both physical and psychological benefits. A review paper by the NCBI that analyzed the major literature published on massage therapy benefits for stress established there were reductions in salivary cortisol from single massage treatments. High levels of the salivary cortisol hormone are accepted as a biological marker for elevated stress levels.
However, the review paper by the NCBI did not prove a sustained reduction in stress levels from repeated massage treatments. But as the body of research around massage benefits for stress develops, what cannot be disputed are its indirect benefits. One is the ability to lift a person’s mood:
Massage Therapy Can Ease Symptoms In Anxiety And Panic Disorder Sufferers
It follows that a sick person will have more to worry and be anxious about than a healthy person. If a massage can help relieve physical pain, it is fair to conclude that it will also, as a result, lift a patient’s mood.
Tied to massage therapy’s benefit for body relaxation is its ability to regulate your reaction to stressful situations. This is known as the fight-or-flight response whose incidence is overly high in people suffering from anxiety and panic disorders.
Sufferers of the disorders display responses that are far too disproportionate to the threat faced. Common signs of stress include anger, irritability, restlessness, lack of motivation, and sadness.
By relaxing the muscles, massage therapy counters the common signs of the fight-or-flight response. A few of these are heightened heart rate, shortness of breath, and excessive sweating. This is known as the relaxation response whose effect shows in reduced tension and a generally improved mood.
Other non-physical massage benefits include improved sleep quality (stressed, anxious, and depressed people generally struggle to sleep, which can degenerate into insomnia) and improved feelings of love, care, and comfort.
Massage Therapy Increases The Production Of Natural ‘Feel-Good’ Hormones
Massage therapy has been proven to encourage the release of serotonin and dopamine – the so-called ‘feel-good’ hormones or neurotransmitters. The two hormones help the body relax, which in turn promotes relief from stress.
Serotonin controls mood and social behavior. Dopamine helps us begin movement and speech as well as raise our expectations of reward. This helps us get more out of our different activities, lifting our moods.
What Massage Is Best For Stress?
There are literally hundreds of different massages, many of which you may not even know of, depending on where you live. Should we assume that all these will help with stress management?
Not really. While some will have several benefits, different massages have different benefits. These, as we have said, could be muscle relaxation, pain relief, and enhanced athletic performance. The following massages are regarded as the best for stress-relief:
- Swedish massage. This massage warms muscle tissues and releases toxins. The massage is marked by longer and slower strokes. It is its ability to relax the body that makes this massage so effective for stress relief.
- Thai massage. This one combines acupressure, yoga, and Ayurvedic techniques to release muscle tension. It is a deep tissue massage where the therapist will pull and stretch along your body’s ‘energy lines to stimulate your internal organs.
- Aromatherapy massage. Here, aromatic oils and herbs are used to stimulate the senses. The limbic system which is related to our sense of smell is known to control stressful behavior. It is also the part of the brain that deals with memories, emotion, and stimulation, which the aromatherapy massage seeks to regulate.
- Hot stone massage. This type of massage uses heated stones to relax muscles and ease tension without applying any deep pressure. Muscle relaxation is what eases stress.
- Prenatal massage. Less a type of massage and more massage techniques deemed safe for pregnant women, the goal here is to reduce the effect of physical conditions that generally come with pregnancy. These, including swelling, aches and pains, and back pain, which are major sources of stress for mothers-to-be.
How do you handle stressful situations? From folk knowledge and the available research, it seems a visit to the spa has a good chance to lift low moods and relieve stress. If, as we have found, it does work for stress management, where do you go for a good massage?
People in Toronto trust the certified masseuses at St. Clair Physiotherapy for both their therapeutic and recreational massages. These experienced massage therapists use the latest techniques to untie those pesky knots in your muscle tissue to help you control stress. Contact us here to book a consultation.