It is widely accepted that not much is known about the physiological effects of massage other than what has been gathered anecdotally. Yet year by year the medical community inches its way closer to proving, experimentally, that the anecdotal evidence of some benefits of massage is actually true. For example, can just one session of massage help to boost the immune system?
This was one question asked in a study done by a team of doctors from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA1. The study looked at a direct comparison of one session of Swedish massage versus one session of light touch.
What they found was one session of massage therapy produced measurable biological effects; such as increased circulating lymphocytes (disease-fighting cells). The study concluded, if the results could be replicated using a larger study population, the findings could have meaningful implications for managing inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
Those of us that use massage regularly in our lives now have one more reason to say “yes” to massage when budgeting our time and money. We have known for a long time how massage therapy positively impacts our lives and may not need western medicine to validate that experience. But, isn’t it nice to know that in slow small steps what we have known and felt and experienced to be true about the benefits of massage are being supported in measurable ways?
As a Massage Therapist, I am thrilled these studies are being done. They encourage the respect of those therapists who for years have marched in the trenches advocating for the existence of massage in the medical profession and a call to action from skeptics.
1. A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals
Mark Hyman Rapaport, Pamela Schettler, and Catherine Bresee. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. October 2010, 16(10): 1079-1088. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0634.