From a gentle hand squeezing your shoulder or back to deep tissue manipulation, massages have been known to ease an aching back, enhance recovery from an injury, improve circulation, and reduce stress. But what makes massages feel so good? The relaxation and relief that comes from a massage go beyond a simple physical sensation. In this article, we will explore the science behind the feeling that we all know and love.
The Science Behind Touch
Our skin is the largest of our sensory organs, with millions of nerve endings that send signals to our brain. Touch, one of the most basic senses, lays the foundation for social interaction and communication. Gentle touches from people we love can increase the feeling of trust and cooperation. On the other hand, rough and violent touches can cause fear and repulsion. Massages are a form of touch that is associated with relaxation and pleasure.
Release of Endorphins
Endorphins are neurotransmitters that are responsible for blocking pain and regulating mood in our brain. Endorphins are released during exercise, laughter, and sex. Massage triggers the release of endorphins, resulting in a feeling of relaxation, happiness, and well-being. In a study conducted by the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, it was found that participants had higher levels of endorphins after a massage.
Stress can have a significant impact on our physical and mental health, manifesting in headaches, high blood pressure, back pain, and difficulty sleeping. Studies have shown that massage can reduce the levels of cortisol, a hormone that is associated with stress, by 31%. Massage can also increase the levels of oxytocin, a hormone that is responsible for social bonding and relaxation.
Blood Circulation and Healing
Massage helps increase blood flow and oxygen supply to the muscles and tissues in our body. This increased circulation can help reduce pain and inflammation, boost the immune system, and promote healing. Experts suggest that massage can increase lymphatic flow, which is responsible for moving white blood cells and other immune system agents through your body to boost immunity.
The Power of Human Touch
Massage is an active form of human touch, which is essential for human health and well-being. Skin-to-skin contact and the stimulation of nerve endings on the skin can help regulate our vital systems, including heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. Research has found that even a 10-minute touch from a loved one can have a significant effect on our physiology, including reducing stress and improving our immune system.
Types of Massages
Swedish massage is the most common type of massage, where a massage therapist uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration, and tapping to increase blood flow and promote relaxation.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is a more intense form of Swedish massage that targets the inner layers of muscles, tendons, and tissues. It helps relieve chronic muscle tension, pain, and improve range of motion.
Hot Stone Massage
Hot stone massage is a luxurious and relaxing massage, where a massage therapist uses heated basalt stones on specific pressure points on the body to relieve tension, stress, and pain.
Aromatherapy massage combines the healing power of touch with the relaxing properties of essential oils. A massage therapist uses specific essential oils and techniques to relieve stress, improve relaxation, and promote healing.
Massage is an effective way to improve your physical and mental health. It promotes relaxation, releases endorphins, reduces cortisol levels, increases circulation, and boosts the immune system. The human touch and stimulation of nerve endings on the skin play an essential role in regulating our vital systems. By incorporating regular massage into your self-care routine, you can experience the benefits of relaxation and well-being.
- What is a massage?
- What are the benefits of massage?
- How does a massage help reduce stress?
- What are the different types of massages?
- How often should I get a massage?
Answers to Common Questions
- A massage is a form of touch therapy that involves manipulating the soft tissues in your body to promote relaxation, reduce pain and inflammation, boost circulation, and improve healing.
- The benefits of massage include increasing relaxation, releasing endorphins, reducing cortisol levels, increasing circulation, and boosting the immune system.
- Massage helps reduce stress by reducing cortisol levels, increasing the levels of oxytocin, and promoting relaxation.
- The different types of massages include Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, hot stone massage, and aromatherapy massage.
- It depends on your individual needs and preferences. Experts recommend getting a massage at least once a month or more frequently if you have specific goals, such as recovery from an injury or reducing chronic pain.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. (2010). Study validates benefits of massage therapy for chronic pain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2021, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100705172811.htm
Field, T. (2014). Massage therapy research review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 20(4), 224-229. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2014.07.002
Massage Therapy Association. (2021). What is massage therapy? Massage Therapy Association. Retrieved May 24, 2021, https://www.amtamassage.org/what-is-massage