Massage therapy is a multi-billion dollar industry in the US with 8.7% of adults receiving at least one massage within the last year. However, little scientific study has been done into the physiologic effects of a single session of massage in healthy individuals, until now. A recent study was done to determine effects of a single session of Swedish massage on neuroendocrine and immune function. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recruited 53 healthy adults and randomly assigned 29 of them to a 45-minute session of deep-tissue Swedish massage and the other 24 to a session of light massage.
The volunteers were fitted with intravenous catheters so blood samples could be taken immediately before the massage and up to an hour afterward. The researchers, sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, found that a single session of massage caused biological changes.
It was thought that Swedish Massage Therapy would increase oxytocin (OT – Oxytocin hormone evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security) levels, which would lead to a decrease in hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA – a major part of the neuroendocrine system that controls reactions to stress) activity and enhanced immune function.
Preliminary data suggest that a single session of Swedish Massage Therapy produces measurable biologic effects. If replicated, these findings may have implications for managing inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.
Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.
The study was published online in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Why not make massage part of your pregnancy and postpartum care. Of course if you have a cesarean delivery you can use the Hemming Massage Guide that comes with our Deluxe C SectionRecovery Kit.