By WIN Provider: Chelsea Werner, RMT
What are the benefits of Massage Therapy? If you’re stressed out and in pain, you may think there is nothing you can do but take some over-the-counter pain medication and push through your day.1 But WIN Registered Massage Therapist, Chelsea Werner, says you don’t have to grin and bear it. Massage therapy can offer significant benefits for a wide variety of health conditions to help you move and feel your best.2
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
According to a study posted in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, massage therapy is an effective tool for reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.3 This is because your body has two nervous systems that function in opposition to one another:
The Sympathetic Nervous System
This system drives your “fight or flight” response in stressful situations.3 Its purpose is to prepare your body for potentially dangerous situations, such as running from a bear, but can also be triggered by much less threatening experiences such as a quickly approaching work deadline or that guy who cut you off in traffic this morning.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
This system works to balance the actions of the sympathetic nervous system and drives what is known as the “rest and digest” response. Its main purpose is to focus on routine tasks that contribute to rest and relaxation.1
Massage therapy is one way to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, providing relief from the everyday stressors we encounter in our modern world.
Massage therapy can also decrease the secretion of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and increase mood-stabilizing hormones like serotonin and dopamine.1 This can help improve sleep quality and has also been shown to help combat insomnia related to menopause and congestive heart failure.4,5
Decreased Pain and Tension
The physical manipulation of tissue during a massage has two major effects:
- An increase in blood and lymph circulation
- Relaxation of soft tissue (muscle, connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments)
As a result of increased circulation, the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells is enhanced which promotes cellular health and efficient tissue function.7 This also leads to the removal of waste products and increased absorption of excess fluid which can help decrease swelling.7
Relaxation of Soft Tissue
The relaxation of soft tissue can effectively reduce painful muscle contractions and spasms commonly referred to as “knots”.7 However, the relaxation of soft tissue can also be helpful if the muscles held in contraction are compressing nerves.7
Optimized Immune Function
Evidence suggests that massage therapy can also produce measurable biological effects including the increased concentration of white blood cells which can help strengthen the body’s defence against viruses.1 Other findings indicate implications for managing inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.6
Whether you are looking for a moment of relaxation, reduced muscle tension, or relief from chronic pain, massage therapy is one way to enhance your overall well-being– keeping you happy, healthy, and mobile.2
- Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Everything You Need to Know About Massage Therapy. Retrieved 19 May 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/benefits-of-massage/.
- Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of Ontario. Benefits of Massage Therapy. Retrieved 19 May 2022, from https://www.rmtao.com/massage-therapy/benefits-of-massage-therapy.
- Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, P., Larson, E. R., Edwards, S. A., Dunlop, B. W., Rakofsky, J. J., & Kinkead, B. (2016). Acute Swedish Massage Monotherapy Successfully Remediates Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Proof-of-Concept, Randomized Controlled Study. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 77(7), e883–e891. https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.15m10151
- Hachul, H., Oliveira, D. S., Bittencourt, L. R., Andersen, M. L., & Tufik, S. (2014). The beneficial effects of massage therapy for insomnia in postmenopausal women. Sleep science (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 7(2), 114–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.slsci.2014.09.005
- Sable, A., Sivabalan, T., & Shetti, A. N. (2017). Effectiveness of Back Massage on Sleep Pattern among Patients with Congestive Cardiac Failure. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 22(5), 359–362. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijnmr.IJNMR_142_16
- Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, P., & Breese, C. (2010). A preliminary study of the effects of a single session of Swedish massage on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and immune function in normal individuals. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 16(10), 1079–1088. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2009.0634
- Burgan, B. How Does Massage Work? University of Minnesota. Retrieved 19 May 2022, from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/massage-therapy/how-does-massage-work.