As if you needed any kind of reason to get a massage, a recent study that indicates that massages are more than just relaxing will having you booking twice as many! The study, conducted by researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center looked at just what types of benefits massage really offers. The study (sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) involved taking 53 healthy adults and splitting them into two groups. One group received a 45-minute Swedish massage, while the second group received a light massage. Each group member was fitted with an IV-catheter, so blood samples could be easily take before, during, and after the massages. So what exactly did researchers find? The first group, after their intensive massage, showed a marked decrease in the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in both their blood and saliva. Additionally, a second hormone which contributes to cortisol levels, called arginine vasopressin, was also reduced. Meanwhile, the light massage group showed an increase in oxytocin, one of the hormones that contributes to feelings of contentment and reduced stress. We all know that massages help relax us, anyone who has had a massage can attest to that. So what’s all the fuss about? One other significant finding was made in the first (long massage) group – an increase in lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are the white blood cells that make up part of your immune system, and increasing white blood cells can help your body respond more quickly to illnesses and infection. If you think (or know) you have a low white blood cell count, then massage may be one of the many things that you can do to help your body get back on track. Otherwise, a low white cell count may lead to higher chance of:
- Bacterial infections: Rashes, swelling, infection, and coughs can be caused by different types of bacteria that you are exposed to every day.
- Fungal infection: Fungi are stubborn microscopic creatures that can cause itching, lumps, swelling, and more, and are especially prevalent in people with poor immune systems.
- Viral infection: White blood cells are the first line of defense against a virus, so if you find that you are getting the flu or other illnesses a poor immune system may be the culprit.
- Sepsis: This blood-related infection can cause serious problems and even death if not caught early. The best defense is to ensure that your body has the tools to fight off all types of infection.
Besides treating yourself to a few massages, a good diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and vitamin C can help to boost your immune system. Investing in a quality multivitamin and some Echinacea can also help increase your white blood cell count. The more you do to help your body stay healthy now, the better it will pay off later – so book that massage!