We reveal why massage is a treat worth indulging in

Have you ever felt so guilty about the cost of a massage, you’ve not been able to relax and enjoy the treatment? Many people think of massage as an indulgent treat, but denying yourself the pleasure of a good rubdown means you’ll be missing out on a hugely beneficial – and scientifically proven – health tonic.

Canadian researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, have discovered massage helps repair muscle and reduce inflammation after exercise. This won’t surprise the many athletes who use massage to treat pain and speed up recovery – and it’s great news for the rest of us.

Description: Post-exercise massage promotes the growth of new mitochondria.

Post-exercise massage promotes the growth of new mitochondria.

“The potential benefits of massage could be useful for a broad spectrum of individuals, including those suffering from musculoskeletal injuries and patients with chronic inflammatory disease,” says Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD from the Department of Pediatrics and Medicine, lead author of the study.

The research found post-exercise massage promotes the growth of new mitochondria (energy-producing units in the cells) in skeletal muscle, while simultaneously lowering muscles inflammatory response.

The researchers concluded the pain-relieving benefit of massage may be comparable to the anaesthetic effects of anti-inflammatory medicine. So next time you’re feeling the pain after a heavy session in the gym or a long run, rather than reaching for a pain killer, book yourself in for a massage and revel in the experience guilt-free.

And if you still feel pangs of guilt about splurging on a massage, here are some of the other impressive health benefits this hands-on treatment can provide.

Fast stress relief

An hour’s massage is almost guaranteed to make you relax, but according to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), certain types of massage can decrease heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels in as little as 15 minutes.

Lower-back pain beater

Unless you’re in so much discomfort you can’t bear anyone touching you, have a massage to beat lower-back ache. Researchers at the Group Health Center of Healthy Studies in Seattle, Washington, found that massage works better than common treatments, including chiropractic therapy and acupuncture. No one knows why but it could be because massage reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while boosting the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. These three changes will help slow heart rate, reduce blood pressure and block your nervous system’s pain receptors, helping you feel better.

Boosted immunity

A single 45-minute Swedish massage produces changes in the immune system and hormonal system, according to researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the US. The researchers compared the effects of Swedish massage with the effects of a milder form of massage called light touch massage. They found Swedish massage caused significant decreases in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that contributes to aggressive behavior, small decreases in the stress hormone cortisol and increased levels of lymphocytes, cells that help your immune system defend the body from harmful substances.

Q & A

I have regular massages but feel dizzy afterwards as I have low blood pressure. I enjoy the relaxation but is there an alternative?

Description: I have regular massages but feel dizzy afterwards as I have low blood pressure.

I have regular massages but feel dizzy afterwards as I have low blood pressure.

If you have low blood pressure, see a chiropractor.

Massage has been shown to reduce high blood pressure. However, if you already have low blood pressure, massage can reduce it further, bringing on the symptoms you mention. Generally, massage is suitable for most people and these symptoms are not unusual – lying down for a long period of time and increased heat can contribute to dizzy spells. But if your low blood pressure is due to a medical condition, you’ll need to see your doctor before having a massage.

As an alternative, try a chiropractic session. Chiropractors work by releasing tension built up in your joints. Chiropractic is ideal for sports injury relief and relaxing a tense body. Sessions are normally short too, which means you won’t be lying down for long. Check out chiropractic-uk.co.uk for more advice.

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