7 Proven Health Benefits of Massage

Massage can be a great way to improve both your physical and mental health. Yes, it allows you to relax and pamper yourself, but it also brings you various health benefits! Here are some of the top health reasons to enjoy a massage.

Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. There are many different types of massages from light stroking to deep pressure. The most common types of massage in Hong Kong are:

  • Acupuncture massage: It is a technique based on the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It uses finger pressure to mobilize chi — or life force energy — at specific spots on the body called acupressure points
  • Foot reflexology massage: By compressing, massaging, and stroking receptors on the foot, it unblocks the energy flow zones of the whole body.
  • Hot stone massage: A type of massage that uses basalt stones of volcanic origin, heated to about 60°C. These stones’ remarkable temperature-maintaining properties are a sure way to warm and relax tense muscles.
  • Lymphatic drainage massage: By applying pressure it aims to drain fluid and warm up limbs, lifting the muscle up and away from the bone to get the blood flowing.
  • Thai massage: A famous massage, which uses various techniques performed not only with hands. Mainly rhythmic, slow pressure as well as elements of stretching, passive yoga and working with energy channels.
  • Swedish massage: This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help make you feel relaxed and energized
  • Deep massage: This massage technique uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly performed to help with muscle damage from injuries.

While there are many great reasons to enjoy a massage once in a while, our Healthy Matters team has compiled 7 top health benefits of massage for you!

1. Improves mental health

There have been numerous research proving that massage helps improve anxiety and depression. According to a study in 2005 by the International Journal of Neuroscience, women with breast cancer were proven to get less emotional and subject to depression after receiving a massage therapy routine of 3 times a week. Another review by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine also stated that massage can reduce the level of cortisol (stress hormones) in our body by 53% through increasing heart rate, breathing and sweating. Massage also increases the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. You know what you need to book now.

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2. No More Insomnia

In a study published by the National Institute of Health, Chinese therapeutic massage is proved to help treat insomnia in 44 postmenopausal women. In this study, massage increased the duration of stage 3 and 4 sleep, which are the 2 most necessary sleep phases for repairing the body and stimulating the immune system. With lower stress levels, massage can bring better sleep quality and make you feel calmer.

To know: not only does massage assist in restful sleep, but it also encourages a comfortable sleep for those who can’t, such as patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

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3. Improves posture

Back, neck and muscle pain is very common among working adults, especially with the extensive time spent daily at work and commuting in Hong Kong. The main reason for this pain is due to poor posture. In fact, chronic back pain is often the result of incorrect or poor posture while standing and/or sitting. Additionally, having a poor posture and repeating the same movements can contribute to the strain on the back and potentially lead to spasms, pain, and tense muscles in the hips, glutes, back, neck, and legs. Massage can help the body to relax and loosen its muscles made tense and sore because of bad posture. The joints will be more flexible and less pressurized as some massage therapies allow you to stretch them. As a result, the body is able to position itself in an organic and healthy posture.

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4. Improves blood circulation

A study by the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong in 2012 revealed that about 1 in 3 adults in Hong Kong has high blood pressure or hypertension. In 2014, researchers found that people who had at least three 10-minute back massages a week lowered their blood pressure more than people who spent the same amount of time just relaxing.

Massage lowers blood pressure and heart rate through increasing our oxygen intake, which may decrease the activation of a pathway related to blood pressure. Improved circulation is part of a snowball effect that occurs in the body as a result of receiving regular massage consistently. This is because damaged, stiff and tense muscles needs rich blood supply to heal and massage brings the proper circulation to support it. The hands-on pressure and actions of squeezing, twisting, and pulling in massage removes lactic acid from muscle tissues and helps the lymph fluid circulation that brings away the waste products from the internal organs and muscles. It results in lower blood pressure, and a better immune system.

5. Treats Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in the muscles, fatigue and cognitive difficulties. Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. Frequent massages are found to help relieve stress as well as alleviate muscle pain, discomfort and spasms in patients suffering from fibromyalgia. In fact, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association, massage is one of the most effective complementary treatments for patients with fibromyalgia and around 40% of them felt the significant reduction in pain and anxiety.

6. Massage Boosts the Immune System

Weekly massage treatments can boost our immune system by increasing white blood cells and immune cell levels. According to researchers from the well-known Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, people who received a 45-minute massage had an increased number of lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that play a large role in defending the body from harmful substances.

“This research indicates that massage doesn’t only feel good, it also may be good for you,” said Mark Rapaport, MD, 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.”

7. Treats Arthritis

Arthritis is a chronic inflammation of one or more joints that damages cartilage. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. Massage therapy can help treat pain and stiffness in adults with knee arthritis and positive short-term effects are seen in the form of reduced pain and improved self-reported physical functioning.

People with arthritis who experience chronic symptoms may consider using massage therapy regularly, even daily use of self-massage, to help manage their pain and stiffness, or to promote better sleep that can, in turn, relieve pain in muscles and joints.

If you’re interested in trying one of the many types of massage as a way to ease your pain or treat your disease, you may consult your rheumatologist or primary-care physician first to ensure that massage is safe for you. Some techniques may involve strong pressure to sensitive tissues and joints, or moving limbs into various positions that may be difficult for someone with damaged joints from a disease like rheumatoid arthritis. Massage is not medicine, it’s here to complement on treating your conditions and your current health. You should enjoy experiencing a massage, and it should not increase your pain or anxiety. Communication with your doctor and massage therapist beforehand can ensure that massage is right for you and help you achieve beneficial results!

Looking for health insurance? Contact AD MediLink now at [email protected] or +852 2296 9773 for expert and unbiased advice. Their advisors are uniquely trained on the Hong Kong healthcare system (public and private) to answer all your questions.

This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.