Massage melts away stress at the source

By Shayna Brouker • Published: December 21st, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Has the stress of the holiday season left you feeling fizzled, frazzled and downtrodden? Schedule a spa session. If you were lucky enough to already enjoy a massage this holiday season, consider yourself healthier.

There’s nothing like a good rubdown for relaxation, and now there’s proof that massage physically relieves stress. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that a single session of either light massage or Swedish massage actually caused biological changes in the body.

Swedish massage, with long, molding strokes and light tapping motions, significantly lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the subjects’ blood and saliva. You might have heard of cortisol: It’s responsible for high blood pressure and dangerous belly fat. A Swedish-style stroke also decreased levels of a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. The subjects even showed an increase in the number of white blood cells, important for maintaining a strong immune system.

Curiously, the lucky subjects treated to a light massage showed even greater levels of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, than those receiving a Swedish rubdown. They even showed superior decreases in a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

Sold on the benefits of a backrub? Therapists offer different strokes for different folks, from pregnancy massage to sports massage. Choose whichever “kneading” suits your individual needs, whether it be to work away those holiday headaches or alleviate a bothersome back problem.

If the holidays left your wallet wanting, have a loved one lend a hand… and treat them in return. It’s the perfect present for a deserving darling.