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Massage Health Benefits Measured in First Study

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

In a first study, researchers have shown that Swedish massage boosts immune cells and leads to other endocrine changes that could reduce the risk of disease. Scientists at Cedars-Sinai studied 29 subjects who received 45 minutes of Swedish massage and 24 who received 45 minutes of light touch massage, measuring hormones and blood cells before and after Swedish massage.

The results showed that subjects receiving a massage also had an immune boosting response, along with other health benefits. According to Mark Rapaport, M.D., chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, "People often seek out massage as part of a healthy lifestyle but there hasn't been much physiological proof of the body's heightened immune response following massage until now."

The adults were instructed to rest for 30 minutes after having an intravenous catheter inserted to obtain blood for analysis. Blood was collected after the rest period, at five minutes and one minute before massage. After massage, samplings were obtained at one, five, 10, 15, 30 and 60 minutes.

Massage boosts immunity, lowers stress hormones.

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The results of the analysis revealed higher numbers of white blood cells that fight disease following massage. Cytokine levels also decreased in the group receiving Swedish massage. Cortisol levels that are released in response to stress were lower, in addition to the hormone Arginine Vasopressin (AVP) that is linked to aggressive behavior.

Dr. Rapaport says, "More research is ahead of us but it appears that a single massage may deliver a measurable benefit”, plus it feels good.

The study is the first to measure physiologic changes following Swedish massage that show the health benefits. It may be that massage could help fight a wide array of diseases linked to inflammation and autoimmune dysfunction.

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0634



Massage therapy can be a powerful ally in healthcare regimen. One of the most surprising findings: massage may help premature babies gain weight. Diana Sero