Many people get massages as a part of their wellness and healing programs. Getting a massage might alter the body's immune response and lower stress-related hormones, a new U.S. study suggests.
A small study, the blood of 29 people who received 45-minute Swedish massages was tested five minutes and one minute before the massage began, then one, five, 10, 15, 30 and 60 minutes after the massage, using intravenous catheters.
Swedish massage is a form of deep tissue massage.
The blood of recipients who received 45 minutes of light touch massage — a much less intense form of massage — were also tested, and saliva samples were taken from both groups.
The massage therapists all used the same massage pattern and were audiotaped for quality control.
According to the researchers from Cedars-Sinai Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences Swedish massages reduced the hormone, arginine vasopressin, a hormone that causes the stress hormone cortisol to increase. The massages also lowered coritsol levels itself in the body.
Study participants also had lower cytokines — proteins released by stimulated white blood cells when danger is present — lower, suggesting that during massage the body relaxes and doesn’t perceive itself as being attacked.
While the Light touch recipients experienced a slight increase in their cytokine levels.
Massage can help to manage inflammation and autoimmune conditions, a situation in which the immune system overreacts, and attacks various cells in the body as if it was a foreign invader.
"This research indicates that massage doesn't only feel good, it also may be good for you," said Rapaport, the principal investigator of the study and the Polier Family Chair in Schizophrenia and Related Disorders, in a release. "More research is ahead of us, but it appears that a single massage may deliver a measurable benefit."
The authors recommend a larger study should now be undertaken to replicate the results.
The study will be published in the October issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.