A single massage can boost the immune system

A single Swedish massage can boost the immune system. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)

Devotees of massage therapy know it’s relaxing and feels good. But massage may also be an effective tool for maintaining good health. Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center reported this week that a single massage produced measurable changes in the immune system and endocrine system of healthy adults.

The researchers, led by Dr. Mark Rapaport, studied 29 healthy adults who received a 45-minute Swedish massage and 24 healthy adults who had a 45-minute session of light touch massage, a much milder exercise that served as a comparison to the more vigorous Swedish massage. Blood samples were taken before the massage began and at regular intervals up to one hour after the massage was completed.

The study found several changes in the blood tests of the Swedish massage group that indicated a benefit to the immune system. For example, Swedish massage caused sizeable decreases in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that contributes to aggressive behavior, and small decreases in the stress hormone cortisol. The Swedish massage participants also had an increase in lymphocytes, cells that help the immune system defend the body from harmful substances.

“This research indicates that massage doesn’t only feel good, it also may be good for you,” Rapaport said in a news release. “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 study appears in the October issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

— Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

Swedish Massage Could Lower Stress Hormone Cortisol

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/25/massage-stress-swedish-cortisol-white-blood-cells-oxytocin_n_2160329.html?ref=topbar

Swedish Massage Could Lower Stress Hormone Cortisol: Study

Posted: 11/25/2012 10:05 am EST
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Regular massages don’t just seem to melt away stress — they may actuallylower levels of the stress hormone in your body, a small new study suggests.

The research, first reported by the New York Times and published in theJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, shows that indulging in a massage is linked with decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and amped-up levels of a vital player in the body’s immune system, white blood cells.

The findings are “very, very intriguing and very, very exciting — and I’m a skeptic,” study researcher Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, the chairman of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told the Times.

The study included 53 adults, 29 of whom had a 45-minute Swedish massageeither once a week or twice a week for a five-week period. The other 24 adults underwent a similar massage schedule, but with a light-touch massage instead.

Researchers found that compared to the light-touch massage, study participants who underwent the Swedish massage twice a week experienced decreases in cortisol levels, increased oxytocin levels (also known as the “trust hormone”), and slight evidence of increased white blood cell counts. They also experienced decreased levels of the hormone arginine vasopressin, which the Times pointed out is linked with cortisol rises.

Previously, researchers studied the effects of Swedish massage versus light-touch massage as published in a 2010 study in the same journal. But that study did not examine differences in hormone levels with differentfrequencies of massage.

The Mayo Clinic points out that other potential health benefits of massageinclude helping maintain a stable blood pressure, relieving stiffness and pain and even helping with anxiety and depression.