We are always healthily sceptical when talking about benefits of massage that go much beyond muscular, joint, pain reduction and relaxation effects. But there have been a few studies with interesting findings on the link between massage therapy and the immune system. So here we make a quick review of one study, and wonder whether a massage really could help you fight off that summer cold.
The study, conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and published in 2010, looked at how various biomarkers responded to Swedish massage therapy.
Fifty-three healthy adult male and female participants were assigned randomly to the massage and control groups. Neither the participants nor the massage therapists knew what was being studied. The Swedish massage group all received 45 minute massage sessions while the control group received 45 minutes of ‘light touch’, from the same massage therapists. Blood and saliva samples were taken before and at various intervals after the treatment. The markers studied included cortisol, plasma adrenal corticotropin hormone (ACTH), oxytocin, vasopressin (a hormone believed to play a part in aggressive behaviour), lymphocyte markers (key immune system indicators) and cytokine levels.
So, what did they find? Compared to light touch, Swedish massage therapy caused a decrease in vasopressin and cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the ‘stress hormone’ and vasopressin is often linked to aggressive behaviour. There were also improvements among the massage group in the biomarkers for immune function – particularly the lymphocyte count. Elevated lymphocyte counts were observed well after the conclusion of the massage treatment. Lymphocytes play an important role in guarding against, and fighting off, infections. The results did not vary by age or gender.
The massage brought about other physical changes too. Reduced levels of cytokines were observed in the massage group participants. Cytokines play a role in moderating inflammation, chronically high levels of which have been associated with conditions like asthma, depression and cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Rapaport, who led the research, said: “This indicates that massage doesn't only feel good, it also may be good for you. We're finding that biological changes do occur as a result of even a single session of massage, and that these changes may benefit even a healthy individual.”
So could massage be more than just a pleasant tool for relaxation and recovery? We’re not claiming it’s the cure for cancer here, but studies like this show that a regular massage could have a positive impact on your ability to ward off infections and stay healthy all year round. The other benefits are numerous – like reduced tension, boosted mood, improved flexibility and accelerated muscle recovery.
At Thai Kosai in London, we offer massages to maximize the effects of your sessions on your personal well-being. Contact us today to make a booking and start improving your immunity and overall health.