“I need a massage,” said everyone who felt stressed and tense, ever. Well, maybe not everyone; but most of us have uttered those words in the middle of an anxious moment, or at the end of a very long day.
Because we know a massage can help us relax. We’re familiar with the experience of it; the sensations of calm and peace that flow through us when we lie on the massage table, with the aroma of massage oils and the expert hands of a trained masseuse easing our muscles and our minds.
But how does massage do that? What’s the science behind it? Is it just some kind of social placebo; or is there something going on in our physiology that shifts us from stress to bliss?
Here are 3 scientifically measurable reasons why massage helps with anxiety and stress.
- Massage releases endorphins
Massage increases blood flow in the areas of the body being massaged. And this causes the release of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. All of these happy hormones flood your body during or after a good massage; which can make you feel on top of the world.
- Massage stimulates lymphatic drainage
The lymphatic system is a complex network of organs and tissues that carry toxins and waste materials out of the body. A fluid called lymph is transported around the body through the lymphatic system, and this distributes white blood cells to protect against infection and support overall health.
When we’re injured, have surgery, or use a muscle excessively, the lymphatic system doesn’t work as well — and waste materials and toxins can build up. This can cause pain, tiredness, and make us feel tense and stressed out.
Massage can help to stimulate lymphatic drainage; flushing those materials out of the system so we feel better.
- Massage lowers blood pressure and heart rate
When you’re stressed or anxious, your blood pressure and your heart rate rise. Over time, if you don’t do anything to help yourself calm down, this can become a serious problem.
Studies show that massage helps to lower blood pressure. In turn, this lowers your heart rate, as your heart doesn’t have to work so hard to pump blood around the body.
As well as having important physical benefits, this has an immediate effect on how you feel; stimulating a sense of calm, steadiness, and rest.
And finally, one less-easy-to-measure reason why massage reduces stress
The act of going for a massage, or even having a partner or friend give you a massage at home, gives you a moment to yourself. A positive experience that’s just for you — with no outcome needed. You just get to be, breathe, and feel pleasurable and positive touch.