Massages: 5 Health Benefits For Body And Mind

Sure, a massage can definitely feel good. But can it provide actual health advantages? While many studies have suggested both physical and psychological benefits, it should be kept in mind that much of it is preliminary.

Remember to consult a doctor if you are considering massage therapy to treat any condition. With that being said, here are five benefits that have been found by researchers.

1. Relieve soreness, pain

The marketing of massages often revolves around the benefit of pain relief, often targeted at those who develop soreness caused by stress and sedentary lifestyles. For example, deep tissue massages can help with pain that affects specific muscles, such as a backache from sitting all day at the office.

Even those who suffer from chronic forms of pain may see short-term improvements in symptoms, research suggests. Patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and arthritis may speak to a doctor and consider massage therapy to complement their treatment.

2. Mental health benefits

Though it has been difficult to conduct controlled studies, a number of findings have suggested that massage therapy can help those with mood disorders. In a study by Emory University, patients reported reduced symptoms of anxiety after opting for a few sessions of Swedish massage therapy.

Similar results have emerged in other studies involving people with depression, though limited. Massage therapists emphasize the importance of a "nurturing touch" which can provide a sense of emotional comfort, comparing it to the positive effects of receiving a consensual hug.

3. Improved sleep quality

In a study by the University of Miami School of Medicine, participants reported a reduction in sleep disturbances after they booked two 30-minute massage sessions per week.

Of course, a reduction in lower back pain — something all the participants in the study faced — can obviously contribute to a higher quality of sleep. But some researchers have also suggested massage therapy can boost your levels of serotonin, which plays an important role in regulating our sleep.

4. Treating sports injuries

Massages might not only speed up the recovery of existing injuries but could also reduce inflammation and improve the flexibility of our muscles, thus reducing the risk of future sports-related injuries. This can also improve your performance in physical activities, be it running or yoga.  

"A sports massage will concentrate on either facilitating healing of a previous activity-caused injury, preventing an injury, or enhancing performance and endurance," said Eva Carey, national massage therapist director for the company Zeel.

5. Immune system boost

"One of the benefits of massage is that it leads to an increase in the circulation of white blood cells," said Mark Rapaport, a professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University.

Lymphocytes — which are white blood cells that help in fighting off infections — were found to increase in people who received a Swedish massage in a study by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.