Is there anything sweeter than a really good massage? Massage therapy has to be one of life’s not-talked-about but most decadent pleasures, right up there with a good housekeeper and the perfect cup of coffee.
Ok, maybe the housekeeper is a bit off, but you get the idea.
Massage therapy has been around for centuries and it’s easy to understand why; it feels great! Anyone who has had a massage, even if it was just a foot rub, knows that.
What you most likely didn’t know, however, is that a full body massage benefits more areas of your life than just relaxing sore muscles or relieving tension. We are going to reveal 29 secret benefits of massage therapy that very few people talk about.
Why is Massage Therapy Important?
Massage therapy has multiple benefits for nearly everyone! Whether you are a cancer patient looking for relief from nausea or you simply need stress relief, massage therapy can improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
The benefits of a weekly massage include helping to calm the central nervous system, improve blood circulation, and offers superior stress relief. You will definitely get the most health benefits from regular massages.
Why Do Massages Feel So Good?
Massage feels good to us because of the healing benefits it provides such as:
- The improved circulation of blood to the lymph nodes, muscles, brain, and connective tissues of the body.
- Stimulating the body to release “feel good” hormones that reduce pain, depression, and anxiety levels.
- Naturally increasing the body’s own oxytocin levels, which gives us feelings of generosity, empathy, and social bonding.
- Limits the activation of pain receptors in the body, such as in the muscles and spinal cord.
- Stops the production of cytokines which cause inflammation.
- Lowers the stress hormones epinephrine, cortisol, and norepinephrine.
- Reduces blood pressure, relaxes the muscles, reduces stress, and slows the breathing
An easier question might be “Why don’t people get massages more often?!”
The Surprising Health Benefits of Massage Therapy
What are the benefits of massage to the body? Keep reading!
We have the scientific facts to back up the benefits of massage!
Secret #1 – Less Hypertension
Heart disease is the #1 killer around the world. One major contributing factor is high blood pressure. Regular massage therapy has been shown in multiple studies to reduce blood pressure readings, sometimes for days afterwards, such as noted in this study, this study, and this study.
Secret #2 – Better and More Beautiful Hair
Here is a secret about massage that virtually no one talks about! If your hair is thinning or if you would like your hair to have more natural volume, a twice weekly scalp massage can improve your hair and make it grow longer and thicker.
When the scalp is massaged, it promotes blood flow. This allows the hair follicles to receive more oxygen and nutrients. It takes only 4 minutes worth of massaging the scalp to result in thicker hair within 24 weeks, according to this study.
Secret #3 – Benefits for Babies
Massage is beneficial for all age groups, not just adults! Infants who received regular massage had improved social behavior, better motor skills, improved sleep and reduced levels of crying.
Everyone wants babies to have these benefits! Consider taking your little one to your massage therapist on your next visit!
Secret #4 – Calming Care for Cancer Patients
Those fighting cancer need every tool available at their disposal. Massage therapy has been found to be very useful in multiple areas for those with cancer, including pain reduction, fewer episodes of fatigue, and providing emotional comfort, as shown in this study.
A meta-analysis of studies found that massage offered short-term benefits when it came to feelings of wellbeing and reduction of symptoms from common cancer treatments.
Secret #5 – Kicks Migraines and Headaches to the Curb
Tension headaches respond remarkably well to myofascial trigger point massage, as shown in this study, while other studies, such as this one, found that 30-minute massages performed twice weekly resulted in fewer migraines, less pain, and more headache free days.
How bad is your pain?
Take our QUIZZES below and find out!
Secret #6 – Magnificent for Stopping Arthritis Pain
The chronic inflammation that hallmarks arthritis causes damage to the cartilage of the joints. Studies have found that regular massage therapy reduced pain and stiffness in adults with arthritis, especially arthritis of the knee.
Secret #7 – Stops Low Back Pain Fast
Whether your low back pain comes from sciatica, a bulging disc, arthritis, or some other problem, one thing is certain; low back pain is greatly reduced with massage therapy.
This study found that not only was massage therapy effective for reducing the intensity of low back pain, but this pain reduction steadily increased throughout the 10-week study period.
Combining chiropractic adjustments and chiropractic massage therapy makes for the perfect healing combination when it comes to low back pain.
Secret #8 – Reduces Burn Pain and Scars
Burn victims have another tool at their disposal when it comes to helping them deal with the pain, itchiness and reduction of scars; massage therapy.
Massage therapy not only stops the growth of new scars but breaks down scar tissue and allows the skin to heal. It also provides pain relief by calming the nerves and giving patients a feeling of being cared for.
Secret #9 – Makes Giving Birth Easier
You might not have realized that you could make giving birth easier simply through massage but it’s true. One review of studies involving almost 2500 women found that massage reduced pain and the risk of trauma by decreasing muscle and tissue resistance.
Secret #10 – Cuts the Pain of Carpal Tunnel
With 26% of Americans older than 20 years of age complaining of having at least some type of pain, it’s good to know that research has definitely shown that massage reduces both pain and pain intensity over the immediate and long-term time frames.
This study found that those with carpal tunnel not only had less pain, but also had improvement in grip strength after 6 weeks of twice weekly message therapy sessions.
Secret #11 – Terrific for TMJ Pain
Temporomandibular joint pain is a problem for thousands of people. There is no cure, only treatment for symptoms such as mouth guards to prevent teeth grinding.
However, one case study found that massage increased the range of motion in the neck and jaw by relaxing tight muscles. Massage also reduced the pain and stress caused by teeth grinding.
Secret #12 – Sleep like a Baby After Massage Therapy
Getting quality sleep most nights is vital to our health and well-being. Lack of sleep has been linked to a large number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, depression, and even obesity. Many people today find that quality sleep is difficult to come by due to stress or obligations.
Massage therapy has been shown to improve sleep by reducing stress, anxiety levels, pain reduction, and even by reducing the stress hormone cortisol, as shown in this study.
Secret #13 – Helps HIV/AIDS Patients
For those who are living with HIV or AIDS, life can be a stressful balancing act. Regular massage therapy not only helped to steady immune system function, but it reduced stress levels and improved their quality of life.
Secret #14 – Helps You Have a Healthier Heart Muscle
The American Heart Association warns against the risks of unmanaged stress, which can lead to hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.
A large number of studies have found that there is a direct correlation between regular massage therapy and improved heart health.
One study found that massage therapy helped to control blood pressure in women who were pre-hypertensive, reducing blood pressure for as long as 72 hours after their massage.
Another study found that massage reduced pain levels, muscle tension, stress, and anxiety levels, as well as improved relaxation levels.
Secret #15 – Helps Stop Chronic Constipation
Whether its from IBS, Crohn’s disease, or some other digestive issue, chronic constipation can be very disruptive for those who are afflicted.
Massage activates stretch receptors in the intestines that loosen the intestinal tract. Massage also reduces tension in the abdomen and offers relief from the discomfort and pain of chronic constipation.
Secret #16 – Ramps Up Immune System Function
One study in 2010 found that a single Swedish massage session lowered the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the number of white blood cells while another study found that weekly massage therapy increased the immune cell levels and white blood cells in every single subject involved.
Secret #17 – Better than Pills at Reducing Stress and Anxiety
For 48 patients in ICU, receiving a Swedish massage reduced anxiety levels by relaxing muscles, slowing respiration, and by relieving pain in one study. Massage is known to reduce overall stress and anxiety by reducing the level of hormones that cause sweating, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing.
Secret #18 – Revamps Myofascial Pain Syndrome
The pain of trigger points in the neck and shoulder muscles is known as Myofascial Pain Syndrome. Trigger point pain reduction was achieved through massage therapy by relaxing these trigger points, as well as activating the prefrontal cortex of the brain to reduce the overall perception of pain.
Secret #19 – Reduces the Pain of Spinal Cord Injuries
Bi-weekly massage therapy sessions were beneficial to those with spinal cord injuries by reducing pain levels through the release of the natural pain killing hormone endorphin.
Secret #20 – Increases Stroke Rehabilitation
Some stroke patients have been able to recover some of their lost dexterity through acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, and massage therapy. One study found that patients had lower levels of anxiety and pain, an improved quality of life, and improved sensorimotor functions when they received regular massage therapy.
Secret #21 – Reduces Recovery Time after Intense Exercise
Many people suffer from swollen or sore muscles after intense exercise, with some people experiencing muscle tears. Massage therapy has ben shown to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain while improving soft tissue repair for gym enthusiasts and athletes.
The benefits of massage therapy for athletes is very well known, which is why all major sports teams employ massage therapists for their players.
Secret #22 – Beneficial for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a terrible condition that is not well understood. Characterized by all-over nerve pain, it is often accompanied by migraines, IBS, chronic fatigue, and depression. There is no cure.
Massage therapy, however, offers some welcome relief for many fibromyalgia patients. Research has shown that massage can reduce pain, lower anxiety levels, improve sleep quality, and lower fatigue levels. As many as 91% of fibromyalgia patients use some form of massage therapy to reduce their symptoms.
Secret #23 – Improves Hospice Patient Care
Hospice is end-of-life care for those with terminal illnesses. Massage therapy is quickly becoming one of the most frequently offered services for those in hospice. Research shows that massage therapy provides relaxation, comfort, and alleviates many symptoms such as insomnia, pain, and anxiety.
Secret #24 – Perfect for Postoperative Pain Relief
Pain after an operation can delay and complicate recovery efforts. Many pain medications are highly addictive or have unwanted side effects. Massage therapy can reduce postoperative pain and accelerate the rate of decline in the intensity of pain that people experience after an operation.
Secret #25 – Enhances Exercise/Athletic Performance
Whether you are a professional athlete, play on a local team, or are simply a weekend warrior who likes to play with your kids, sports enthusiasts everywhere and at any level can improve their exercise and/or athletic performance through regular massage therapy.
This study found that subjects can maintain maximum performance levels when they allow recovery time that included massage. Even more studies found that regular massage therapy allowed for improved exercise performance.
Secret #26 – Assists with Depression Symptoms
Depression can be a devastating problem that is not easily solved. Most patients take prescription anti-depressants, but these come with their own terrible side effects.
Massage therapy can help! The emotional benefits of massage therapy have been proven beyond a doubt. Multiple studies, such as this one, have found massage can improve mood and reduce depression for a variety of people.
Secret #27 – Better Balance for the Elderly
The benefits of massage therapy for the elderly are many, but perhaps none better than pain relief and improving their sense of balance. Thousands of seniors are injured every year from falling.
This study found that after 6 weeks of massage therapy, elderly adults showed improved balance, neurological and cardiovascular measures.
Secret #28 – Softens the Effects of Dementia
Dementia in older adults is a growing problem. Subjects with dementia are often agitate and upset since they no longer understand what is going on around them.
Massage therapy has been found to reduce the agitation behavior in those with dementia, possibly by reducing their stress levels, according to one study.
Secret #29 – Reduces Chemotherapy-Related Nausea
As of this writing, chemotherapy remains a necessary evil. The side effects of nausea and vomiting are often severe. While there are some drugs that can help stop the nausea, these do not work for everyone.
Massage therapy has been shown to be effective for relieving anxiety, depression, as well as nausea related to their chemotherapy. One study found that those with breast cancer, who were undergoing chemotherapy, had significantly reduced nausea comparted to the control group.
Type of Massage and Their Benefits
The benefits of massage therapy are as varied as the types of massage you can receive, from physical to mental, emotional to healing.
What does massage do for the body? Let’s look at the different types of therapeutic massage:
- Swedish Massage- This is the most well-known and classic massage that relaxes tight muscles, relaxes the body, and improves circulation. The body is typically stroked, rubbed, vibrated, kneaded and/or tapped using gentle to medium pressure.
- Tantric Massage- By using sexual energy, the therapist helps the patient achieve a higher state of consciousness which can produce feelings of deep relaxation and a profound sense of well-being.
- Manipulation- This type of massage is often done in combination with physical therapy exercises and is designed to improve mobility and stop pain. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not only massaged, but stretched.
- Ayurvedic- An ancient and traditional form of massage from India that involves a gentle massage that uses herbal oils and rhythmic strokes.
- Mobilization- Similar to Manipulation, this massage focuses on the spine, joints, and muscles to improve mobility and improve posture.
- Thai Massage- By applying a strong, rhythmic pressure, the therapist pulls and stretchiness on the limbs, focusing on the “energy lines” of the body to remove negative energy and stop disease.
- Connective Tissue- This is generally a deeper massage that applies pressure to the connective tissues, such as ligaments and tendons.
- Manual Lymphatic Massage- Specific areas are targeted with strokes designed to stimulate the lymph nodes into draining the buildup of waste and toxins that can accumulate.
- Deep Tissue Massage-A very powerful and strong pressure is applied to reach deeper layers of muscles. The benefits of a deep tissue massage are to realign the muscles and fascia. This massage is often used for chronic low back pain or neck pain.
- Shiatsu- By using the thumbs, this Japanese massage releases trigger points and massages acupuncture points on the body.
- Myofascial Massage- Often called a trigger point massage because this is what the massage addresses. By releasing trigger point, adhesions and painful nerve endings, patients find relief from pain.
- Chinese Traditional Massage- This massage uses moderate pressure applied to acupoints on the body with fingertips working in rotating movements. This massage is often a precursor to acupuncture.
- Hot Stone Massage-This is generally an addition to a Swedish massage. Round, smooth stones are heated and placed on certain areas of the back and neck. When they cool a bit, the therapist uses these to continue to massage tight muscles.
What is the best type of massage to get? That would depend on the health problem you are having or what goals you have for the massage. Your chiropractor and/or massage therapist can help you decide which massage is best for you.
How Do I Get the Most Out of My Massage?
Some of the best tips come from massage therapists themselves. To get the most out of your massage, they recommend the following:
- Keep in mind that they are not counselors
- Please shower before your massage
- Remember that a good massage doesn’t have to hurt
- One massage session will not “fix” 30 years of stress and tension
- Forget about your cellulite, scars, or fat belly. We’ve seen it all!
- Please show up on time
- There is no need to tell the therapist how to do their job
- Please don’t bring up politics, religion, or other subjects considered controversial
- Don’t eat a big meal before your appointment
- Don’t drink alcohol immediately before or after
- Try to relax and just enjoy the feeling!
How bad is your pain?
Take our QUIZZES below and find out!
How Long Do Massage Effects Last?
This depends on the person and their lifestyle. Those with highly stressful occupations or situations in their lives, perhaps 3-5 days. For an average person, 1-2 weeks.
A weekly massage is recommended for almost everyone, but your chiropractor or massage therapist might recommend massage treatments more often, especially in the beginning, if you are suffering from injuries or other health issues.
Does Massage Release Toxins?
Yes, massage causes toxins to be released from the tissues, especially the muscles, of the body. These toxins are processed through your lymph system.
Why Should I Get a Massage at My Chiropractors?
Chiropractic and massage therapy go hand in hand, especially for those with chronic pain conditions, back or neck pain, or injuries. Chiropractic massage is better than either of these therapies by themselves. Massage relaxes the body and prepares it for the chiropractic adjustments that will help the central nervous system work properly. This allows for improved healing and the delivery of healing nutrients to all parts of the body.
What are the Side Effects of Massage Therapy?
One of the unexpected things about massage is that it has relatively minor, temporary, and limited side effects.
Common side effects include:
- Light bruising
- Feelings of discomfort
There can be more serious side effects, but these are very are such as a ruptured liver or bone fractures.
Avoid massage if you are prone to bleeding, have a skin rash, infection, wound, or are running a fever.
Why Should I Get a Chiropractic Massage?
There are several differences between a spa massage and a chiropractic massage. While both of these types of hands on therapy play their role in the health care arena, they aren’t the same.
Both spa massage and chiropractic massage offer improved range of motion, lower pain levels, and improved joint mobility, as well as feeling terrific, there remain distinct differences.
1) The Focus of Practice
A spa massage places their focus on relaxation and calming of the senses. They often relieve stress and stimulate pleasurable sensations through candle light or dim lighting, soothing music, and incense.
Chiropractic massage involves both the massage therapist and the chiropractor. The doctor will take your history and take note of health problems and/or tight muscles or problem areas you are having. They will discuss your case with the massage therapist and decide which massage is best and what areas might need special attention or what areas will need to be avoided.
A massage at your chiropractors is considered to be a medical treatment, which is something you can’t say about a spa massage. Your insurance might cover the treatment if they cover chiropractic care. This isn’t true of your local massage parlor.
Patients who receive massage therapy in combination with chiropractic care tend to heal faster than if they receive either of these treatments alone.
We aren’t knocking spa massages! For simple relaxation, as time spent as a luxurious treat, stress relief, and self-care, you can’t beat a delightful spa massage!
For those experiencing pain or if you have suffered an injury, if you have chronic back or neck pain, or if you regularly get adjustments from your chiropractor for any reason, the benefits of a regular chiropractic massage cannot be beat for healing.
Will a Massage Reduce Belly Fat? Or Cellulite?
While there is something beautiful in accepting your body the way it is, cellulite, poochie belly and all, everyone has the desire to look as good as they possibly can.
While many creams, lotions, and other remedies (such as coffee ground scrubs) claim to reduce cellulite, there is no scientific evidence that any of these products work.
Massage is also sometimes advertised as being able to reduce belly fat and the appearance of cellulite by reducing excessive fluid buildup and improving circulation to the area, there is also no scientific evidence that massage will do either.
While a massage may temporarily remove fluid build up and compress some of the fat cells, these results are very short lived, lasting only a few hours at best.
How Often Should I Get a Massage?
The answer to this question will depend on your lifestyle and the reason for the massage. There are no hard and fast rules regarding massage frequency.
Those who do intense sports or who have very physically demanding jobs might find that massages two or more times per week help to keep them relaxed and free from sore muscles.
For those who are healing from injuries, especially to the back or those who have joint problems or arthritis, your chiropractor might suggest twice weekly massage to speed healing.
Other people might find that massages twice a month are sufficient to help them relax and reduce stress.
Generally speaking, most people will benefit from a weekly massage session. The truth is, however, that many people simply don’t have the time or the funds to enjoy the benefits of a weekly massage session, so they wait until they feel pain or are feeling extremely stressed.
It would be more beneficial to schedule massages as often as you can, as opposed to waiting until you are ready to implode from anxiety or stress or before pain begins to take a toll on the body.
How Do I Prepare for My First Massage? What Should I Wear?
While the idea of a massage sounds terrific on one hand, for those who haven’t experienced one yet, they might be feeling apprehensive about having someone rub their body while wearing next to nothing.
Being self-conscious can limit the relaxing benefit of massage. Try to relax and keep in mind that your therapist has seen hundreds if not thousands of bodies. Unless you are an alien, there is nothing that they haven’t seen and probably won’t notice or even remember.
Don’t eat anything about 2 hours before your appointment but do drink plenty of water. If your massage is scheduled during your lunch break, eat a very light meal, such as a salad, or wait until after your massage.
Wear comfortable clothing. You will undress, so anything that is easy to remove would be ideal.
The therapist will allow you privacy to undress. Most offer a towel or sheet to cover the parts of your body that aren’t being massaged. Your therapist understands that most people are shy and will respect your privacy and modesty.
Before the massage begins, don’t be afraid to tell your therapist anything you feel is important, such as areas that might be causing you pain, such as your neck or lower back, or possibly areas that you want them to avoid. Always let the therapist know if you have any special health considerations.
You can also let the therapist know if you don’t mind chatting or if you would like music, or even complete silence. Don’t worry about giving the therapist feedback either, such as too much pressure in a certain area or whether something feels really good.
More than anything else, just breathe and relax! Your therapist knows their job and your job is to simply enjoy the experience!
What Should You Do After a Massage?
You can feel free to spend a few minutes lying on the table while you get ready to leave. If you get up too quickly, you might feel dizzy. You could even faint or fall! Take your time, get up slowly, and get dressed. Schedule your next massage before you leave. Enjoy a large glass of water and breathe in deeply.
The One Secret that No One Ever Mentions?
There might be numerous benefits to massage therapy but there is one thing that for some reason is truly kept secret and that no one ever seems mention.
Do you know what it is?
It’s the fact that, after any massage therapy session, you will feel so good that you are literally counting the days and minutes until your next appointment!
About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.