Massages have been used for thousands of years, and there are around 80 types to choose from. They all involve manipulating or rubbing the muscles and other soft tissues. Many people enjoy them because they make them feel more relaxed. Researchers have learned, however, that massages have many other benefits.
Massage can be an effective treatment for back pain, including lower back pain, which is notoriously hard to treat. The journal “Pain Medicine” described a study in which volunteers with lower back pain received ten massages. Fifty percent experienced significantly less pain. The results of the treatments lasted, too. Nearly six months after the treatments, 75 percent of the patients who’d shown improvements 12 weeks after the treatments were still experiencing benefits. An earlier study demonstrated that this was a more effective treatment for lower back pain than either chiropractic or acupuncture.
This therapy can help other types of pain as well. Both headaches and migraines can be improved by massage. One study found that this treatment can reduce the number of migraines a patient suffers. A study involving patients with knee osteoarthritis showed that the ones who got massages had less pain and stiffness than the ones who did not.
A study published by the “International Journal of Nursing Studies” demonstrated that this therapy can help relieve constipation. Scientists divided volunteers into two groups: one group was given only laxatives, while the other group got abdominal massages along with the laxatives. The second group showed greater improvement in their symptoms than the first group did.
Of course, this treatment can boost mood and, thus, ease both anxiety and depression. A study conducted at Emory University found that patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) showed marked improvement after being given Swedish massages for six weeks. The therapy helps these disorders by reducing cortisol levels by as much as 50 percent and by stimulating the neurotransmitters that lessen depression.
Iranian researchers found that this therapy can lower blood pressure. And massage is an effective treatment for sports injuries. In addition to rehabilitating an injured athlete, it can help prevent re-injury. By relaxing muscles, it can also improve flexibility and range of motion. It can boost circulation and, thus, make it easier for oxygen and nutrients to reach a damaged body part. That increase in circulation also allows the body to dispose of waste products like lactic acid more efficiently.