Benefits of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is no longer viewed solely as a luxury for the wealthy, and more and more hospitals and clinics are offering it as part of standard treatment.


Research has shown that massage decreases the sympathetic nervous system activity and increases parasympathetic activity, thereby slowing your heart rate decreasing cortisol levels, and increasing serotonin levels – both of which can lower anxiety and depression. For professional help, contact Massage Therapy Tulsa.

Stress affects every system in the body and causes many symptoms such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, back pain, muscle tension, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, depression, lowered immune system and poor sleep. The good news is that you can help decrease these symptoms by receiving regular massage therapy. Massage can lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as release feel good hormones that increase relaxation and a sense of wellbeing.

The benefits of reducing stress are numerous and can be life changing. A ten to fifteen minute chair massage decreases heart rate and systolic blood pressure as well as salivary cortisol levels in controlled studies1. It also increases the elasticity of tissues and improves range of motion. It can reduce the buildup of metabolic wastes that can cause swelling, muscular fatigue and weakness, and inhibit healing after an injury. Massage can also decrease the feeling of pain by triggering the release of natural pain killers and feel good hormones. In addition, the touch of massage interrupts the pain signals from reaching the brain, reducing the feeling of pain.

The act of receiving a therapeutic massage stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and decreases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system responsible for the fight-or-flight response to perceived threats. This decrease in stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine and the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine is thought to help alleviate the negative effects of chronic stress on the body and mind. However, some people should not receive a massage due to medical conditions such as advanced heart disease, phlebitis, thrombosis, embolism, deep vein thrombosis, clotting disorders or cancer that might be accelerated by the manipulation of the skin.


The strokes and manipulation of a relaxing massage create the’relaxation response’ in the body. This causes a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol and increases the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine which all improve mood and make you feel good. It also lowers heart and breathing rate and relaxes the muscles, resulting in decreased muscle tightness and fatigue.

Massage is a great stress reliever and many people find it helpful in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. It has been shown to increase white blood cell count, which helps boost the immune system. In addition, research has shown that massage decreases the frequency and severity of tension headaches.

Remedial Massage involves assessment and treatment of the muscles that are causing pain or postural dysfunction. Unlike relaxation massage, the aim of remedial massage is to identify the source of the problem, which is often a tight or overactive muscle that needs to be stretched, released, strengthened or rehabilitated.

During a remedial massage, your therapist may use friction techniques to warm the tissues and break up adhesions or knots in the muscles. They may also incorporate myofascial release using plastic, silicon or glass cups to assist with releasing the tight fascia, which is often the cause of back and neck pain and restricted movement.

Remedial massage has been shown to be beneficial for conditions such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, low back pain, sprains and strains, shoulder problems, tennis elbow and plantar fasciitis. It is also covered by some private health insurance companies. It is important that you advise your therapist of any medical conditions or injury before the massage and communicate with them throughout the session. They can then modify the pressure and technique to ensure safety for you.

Anxiety Relief

Anxiety is a common condition and may be exacerbated by stress. Massage therapy can help alleviate feelings of anxiety and promote relaxation. It works by increasing your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming down and resting. In fact, one study found that getting a massage decreases cortisol, which is associated with the fight or flight response, while it increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that stabilize your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety.

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor about the benefits of massage therapy as part of a holistic treatment plan. It is important to discuss any underlying health conditions or concerns you may have with your massage practitioner, especially when considering more intensive types of massage such as deep tissue.

A small randomized trial of the effects of myofascial trigger point massage on state and trait anxiety in patients with tension-type headache showed that after 10 sessions, patient’s immediate anxiety scores decreased by 45% compared to their premassage scores on a visual analog scale. However, there was no significant impact on intermediate-term anxiety and depression.

Several studies show that massage reduces the symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety disorders. Some studies even show that massage can be as effective as some antidepressants for treating anxiety disorders and reducing their intensity.

Getting a massage to ease your anxiety is easy and safe. It is recommended that you do not eat just before or after your massage and that you arrive early to your appointment. Drinking water after a therapeutic massage is also important as you can get dehydrated easily, and this can add to your discomfort.

Immune System Enhancement

When your immune system is strong, it’s much easier for your body to fend off infection and disease. There are a number of ways to keep your immune system strong, including regular exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep. Another great way to bolster your immune system is through massage. The physical and energetic balance that comes with therapeutic touch helps to keep your body healthy, especially during this cold and flu season.

One of the key ways that massage strengthens your immune system is by reducing stress. When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol that suppresses the immune system and makes you more susceptible to illness. When you receive a deep tissue or Shiatsu massage, the energy pathways are opened up and your immune system gets a boost.

Regular massage also stimulates the lymphatic system, allowing your body to more easily flush out toxins and debris from your cells. This reduces the load on your immune system and allows it to better focus on fighting infections. One study by Cedars-Sinai found that participants who received a massage had lower levels of cytokines, which are inflammatory compounds that promote tissue damage and lead to increased susceptibility to disease.

Other studies, such as a 12-week controlled trial composed of HIV positive adolescents, showed that those who received a massage had enhanced immune function and an increase in natural killer (NK) cells, which kill virus-infected cells. NK cells are considered the first line of defense against viruses, and an increase in them means your immune system is functioning more effectively.

Pain Relief

Massage involves pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. This can range from light stroking to deep pressure. This helps relax your muscles and tendons that are tight from injury or from sitting all day at work, driving, or hunching over your laptop. Deep tissue massage is particularly helpful for those with injuries and chronic muscle tightness, especially when it targets the knots and trigger points that form. These are tiny muscle spasms or tight spots that can produce pain in other parts of your body. Massage increases blood flow to those areas, helping them to release.

Research has shown that massage decreases the stress hormone cortisol and can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood. A study in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggests that getting a massage can also ease anxiety by increasing your parasympathetic nervous system response, which decreases the fight-or-flight reaction and promotes relaxation and rest.

One way that massage can help relieve pain is by interrupting or overwhelming the nerves in your injured tissues that send the signal to your brain to feel pain. These are called nociceptors. Massage can help interrupt the cycle of pain by sending other messages to those nociceptors to make them less sensitive, and it can also help close the pain gate by stimulating competing nerve fibers that send competing signals to your brain.

Massage is not just for the wealthy or those that enjoy going to high-end spas; it can be a useful tool in treating some of our most common health problems, and it may even be covered by your medical insurance. Talk with your physician about incorporating it into your wellness plan, especially if you have serious medical conditions or a back problem.