Massage for Stress Relief

Massage shifts the brain’s balance away from stress and towards relaxation and healing.

[1] To understand the general effects of massage, we need to examine the hormones and neurotransmitters that control mood. Massage promotes the release of serotonin, which explains the positive mood effect, and the observation that despite vigorous manipulation people can fall asleep during a massage session. Dopamine is another neurotransmitter whose concentration is elevated by massage. The neurons that use dopamine as their chemical transmitter (dopaminergic neurons) make up the reward system in the brain.  Massage reduces the levels of cortisol, reducing the physiological effects of stress, enhancing wound healing, and increasing immunity to viruses.  Reduction of epinephrine and norepinephrine levels results in lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, elevated glucose metabolism.  Objective evidence by recording brain activity with an EEG shows there is a meditative, healing aspect of massage by increasing the delta (deep sleep) waves. Fluctuations in several types of brain waves associated with either relaxation or with waking up. Massage increases delta waves—the type of brainwaves linked with deep sleep—according to a study at the Touch Research Institute.  This may be why it is so easy to fall asleep on the massage table!  Fall asleep, wake up healed – now that’s pretty amazing.



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