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7 Health Benefits of Massage

Posted Mar 07 2012 2:26am

I’m a big fan of the spa .

And of all the spa treatments you can get, my all-time fave is massage therapy.

I’ve long been convinced that it’s more than just an indulgence. A professional, therapeutic massage is so relaxing and feels so great…there just has to be health benefit, right?

Right.

In case you’re in need of a little justification, here are 7 reasons to treat yourself to a massage:

1.To improve your sleep.

A number of studies have looked at the connection between therapeutic massage and sleep, and indeed, there has been demonstrated benefit for people who suffer insomnia–due to a variety of reasons, like menopause. Studies have shown particular benefit with massage using essential oils, especially lavender. (Need more help with sleep? Read this ).

2.To better recover from a hard workout.

A recent study confirmed what many trainers already practiced: that a short, 10 minute swedish massage post-workout reduces inflammation in muscles, which can help your body recover.

3.To manage anxiety & depression.

Again, multiple studies have looked at massage therapy’s ability to alleviate anxiety and improve mood. And there have been encouraging findings : massage therapy appears to decrease cortisol, a stress hormone, and increase serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.

4.To reduce PMS symptoms.

A couple of small-ish studies have shown promise in the PMS-relieving department. Women treated with reflexology, in one study, and therapeutic massage, in another, showed decreased premenstrual symptoms, like mood changes, cramping and bloating.

5.To boost brainpower.

Typically, we think of a massage as hypnotic, relaxing, and slowing us down…but this study showed that it can increase alertness and make you a little sharper, cognitively. Subjects performed math calculations faster and more accurately after receiving regular 15-minute chair massages (twice weekly, for 5 weeks) than those who didn’t get a rubdown. (Here’s more on how to give that brain a boost ).

6.To jack up your immunity.

Sick of getting one cold after another? Studies have connected massage therapy with improved immune system function. A randomized trial in 2010 took blood samples of research subjects and those who had received massage therapy had improved white blood cell number and function.

7.To ease headaches.

Several years ago I found myself in a stressful work arrangement, and the way my body showed its displeasure? Frequent headaches. But I had to stick things out for several more months…so one of my coping strategies was to get regular massages. It helped me big-time. Research back this up, too. Multiple studies have shown that massage therapy can help reduce the frequency and severity of both migraine and tension headaches.

Justification? Check.

Most excellent.

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