The Immediate Impacts of Massage

Last week the New York Times reported on the results of a new study about massage, and it’s clearly of interest—the piece is still being featured as top-read content. To find out just what happens to us after a massage, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recruited some 53 healthy candidates to receive some treatments.

About half of the group was assigned Swedish deep-tissue massages and the others a lighter-touch style of rubdown. All subjects were strapped with gear to take blood samples right before and immediately after the one hour massages. Here are the results:

Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.

Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment … and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

Even skeptics are having a hard time ignoring these exciting outcomes. To celebrate, Siobhan and I both went for great cheapie massages this weekend. I’m definitely partial to deep tissue, but it looks like all different kinds could offer benefits.

Do you get regular massages? And if not, does this study inspire you to?

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7 Responses to “The Immediate Impacts of Massage”
  1. Suzanne Carter says:

    I have had a few massages, all of which hurt a lot. I’m not sure I had much relaxation from them, but maybe I need a difference practitioner.

  2. Alexandra says:

    Yeah, maybe you need to start with a gentle one. Besides, according to this study, it looks like the light touch comes with great perks. :)

  3. Bella says:


    I have tried the Trager massage once, and I don’t think it helped me much with my repetitive stress injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome) :-((

    My physician in India strictly advised me not to get a deep tissue massage as that will aggravate the problem, so I am a little wary of getting a massage. I just got physical therapy for a long time, but it really doe snot help much!

  4. Margot says:

    I was gratified to read the Times article – it validates massage as a therapeutic practice. (No, I am not a massage therapist.) I’m really surprised at the negative comments – it must be terrible to have a bad experience with massage.

    An MT is supposed to first ask about your health and any troublesome or painful areas, so that they can modify the massage to your specific needs and preferences. If at any time there is too much pressure, one should tell the therapist immediately. I have had dozens of therapeutic massages over the years,by at least ten different therapists, and almost all were soothing and felt beneficial. Be sure your MT had been trained at a legitimate Massage therapy school, and is licensed.

  5. ComaGirl says:

    My spouse and I have had one couples massage, which I dragged him to kicking and screaming, (and that was after years of coaxing). He, of course, loved it and cannot wait to go back. We were going to schedule another for this weekend. This article inspires me to get on the phone today and do just that. For my spouse, I thought it would help high blood pressure and stress. It seems that there is some evidence of this. Very interesting.

  6. Sarah says:

    This is great to hear! I get regular massages to aid back and neck tension. I love the benefit that massage provides in terms of relaxing the muscles and the way it feels, but also that it can benefit me internally :). More reasons to get a massage!

  7. Jenn says:

    Yes! As a massage therapist, I concur with Margot. Massage therapists are very much supposed to hear your medical background and known your trouble spots before the massage. Obviously, this is for the clients benefit. But also, if a massage therapist does not ask for this information, it can create a liability if they injure a client without having first asked them about medical issues.

    Very sorry to hear folks have had bad experiences! Don’t feel too shy about saying “that hurts.” They will appreciate your honesty. Trust me, the last person who wants to do harm is a massage therapist!

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