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Not only do massages feel good, but here’s how they may be good for your health.

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Work and family responsibilities, financial worries and concerns about the future can make anyone feel stressed from time to time. But while occasional stress is to be expected, chronic stress can be a problem – wreaking havoc with your mental and physical health.

Fortunately, many people find ways to manage their stress so it doesn’t get the best of them. What works for one person may not work for another so it’s important to find the stress-relieving tools and tricks that work for you. For example, one person may be able to lower their stress level with a cup of tea enjoyed along with a few minutes of quiet reflection. Others find vigorous exercise, time spent outdoors or even shouting into their pillow helps.

One activity that has been shown to be an effective stress reliever is getting a massage. A professional massage provides a number of therapeutic benefits that counter the negative effects of stress on your body and mind. These include:

    • Massage helps loosen tight muscles. Feeling stressed can cause muscles to tighten, causing headaches, backaches and other aches and pains.
    • Massage triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin. These are natural chemicals produced by your body that improve your mood, reduce pain, and ease stress and anxiety.
    • Massage decreases the amount of cortisol your body produces. Known as the “stress” hormone, cortisol increases when you feel stressed, helping to prepare you to tackle difficult situations. If your cortisol level remains high due to chronic stress, you’re more likely to develop stress-related health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression and anxiety.
    • Massage helps ease insomnia. By helping you relax and loosening tight muscles, you’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep. Afternoon or evening massages are best if you want to take advantage of the sleep-inducing benefits of massage therapy.
    • Massage may reduce brain fog. Do you find that you make poor or impulsive decisions when you’re stressed? By relaxing you, massage helps you remain calmer when you’re under pressure so you can think more clearly.
    • Massage provides you with important “me” time. It can be stressful to constantly worry about and do things for others. But taking some time out just to focus on yourself can help you relax and recharge.

The positive effects of massage are supported by multiple research studies. Adults with high blood pressure who participated in one massage study saw significant improvements in their anxiety and stress levels. In addition to relieving stress, five weeks of massage therapy also lowered their blood pressure and decreased their cortisol levels.

A massage doesn’t have to be long to reduce your stress level. In one study, participants reported feeling less stressed after a 10-minute head-and-neck massage. Although study subjects who received a light massage or just rested also felt less stressed, participants who received a deep massage reported feeling more relaxed.

If you find yourself feeling stressed, whether occasionally or often, why not make time for a massage? Whether you opt for a massage from a professional masseuse, friend or partner, massage offers valuable benefits for your mental and physical health.

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Date Last Reviewed: February 18, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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