After looking at a few studies, I have some good news to report. Massage does, indeed, appear to bring some lasting benefits, beyond the euphoric minutes I spend on the table.
- One study measured the effects of a one-hour massage and found that subjects had a significantly reduced subjective experience of stress, with lowered levels of heart rate as well. In hypertensive people, blood pressure was also reduced.
- A second study examined the effects of a 30-minute Thai massage and found that those who received massages experienced increases in heart rate variability, pain threshold, and body flexibility, with significant decreases in self-reported pain intensity, anxiety, and muscle tension. A control group rested on beds during the same period and experienced none of these benefits.
- Another study, involving cancer patients, found that those who received bi-weekly massages for five weeks reported lower levels of mood disturbances, particularly for anger, tiredness, and anxious depression than did a control group who did not receive massages during the same period.
- Other studies have found that massage decreases anxiety and depression in adults and children, and even brings benefits for babies. Massage has been shown to increase mental clarity, reduce anxiety, increase general feelings of well being, and release unexpressed emotions, among other benefits.
It appears that massages don't just feel great in the moment--they do bring lasting benefits, and can be counted as one of the more enjoyable and easy-to-practice (though perhaps more expensive) stress management techniques one can use. Trading massages with loved ones could be a way to offset the cost and gain some of the benefits, though it appears that booking a professional massage may be worth the price if it fits within your budget. Read more about massage, and see how you can book one for yourself. Massage Resources:
Basier, A. J. (2011). Pilot study investigating the effects of Ayurvedic Abhyanga massage on subjective stress experience. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol 17(5), pp. 435-40.
Freeman, L. W. (2009). Mosby's complementary and alternative medicine. (3 ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
Listing, M; Krohn, M.; Liezmann, C.; Kim, I.; Reisshauer, A.; Peters, E.; Klapp, B. F.; and Rauchfuss, M. (2010). The efficacy of classical massage on stress perception and cortisol following primary treatment of breast cancer. Archives of Women's Mental Health, Vol 13(2), pp. 165-73.
Vitsarut, B.; Wichai, E.; Uraiwon, C.; and Samerduen, K. (2009). Randomized controlled comparative study: The immediate effects of traditional Thai massage on heart rate variability and stress-related parameters in patients with back pain associated with moyfascial trigger points. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 15(1); pp. 15-23.