If your neck’s all knotted up, it’s no surprise that a massage can make you feel a whole lot better.
But the benefits of a good rubdown may run a little deeper than you may think. Here, 8 surprising ways getting a massage is doing your body good.
MASSAGE BENEFIT: POOP EASIERAll backed up in the bathroom? Massage might help people who suffer from constipation, according to research published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies.
Researchers broke up 60 people with constipation into two groups—one received laxatives along with abdominal massage, while the others were given only laxatives. After eight weeks, the people in the massage group reported less severe gastrointestinal symptoms and less abdominal pain that the laxative-only group. They also pooped more frequently, too.
MASSAGE BENEFIT: FIGHT OFF SICKNESSThe feel-good effects of a massage may extend deep into your body. People who received Swedish massage showed changes in their immune system responses after the sessions, according to a study out of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. In particular, they experienced a boost in the number of circulating lymphocytes, white blood cells that help fight infection.
MASSAGE BENEFIT: EASE BACK PAINChronic low back pain is notoriously hard to treat—and according to new guidelines, you shouldn’t reach for the pills for relief, either.
But massage may be a drug-free way to feel better fast. About 50 percent people with chronic low back pain who were given 10 sessions of massage therapy experienced clinically significant improvements in their pain, a study in Pain Medicine found. And the effects were sustained—75 percent who experienced improvements after 12 weeks still showed the benefits at the 24-week mark.
MASSAGE BENEFIT: SLEEP SOUNDLYPeople who suffer from back pain tend to have problems sleeping. But massage therapy might help fix that, too.
In University of Miami School of Medicine study of 30 adults with chronic low back pain, those who started 30-minute long massage sessions twice a week for five weeks noted a significant reduction in sleep disturbances, meaning less awakening during the night or trouble falling asleep. Since the massage also reduced the pain, it’s possible that less aches means higher-quality shuteye, the researchers believe.
MASSAGE BENEFIT: END EXERCISE SORENESSIf a tough workout has you limping, the answer might be on the massage table: People with trap soreness after a hard workout experienced a reduction in soreness intensity after a 10-minute massage of the affected muscle, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Can’t fit in the masseuse after your gym session? Another solution may be just to keep moving: Those who performed “active rest”—in this case, 10 minutes of shoulder shrugs—experienced a similar reduction in soreness.
MASSAGE BENEFIT: BOOST YOUR MOODIt’s not just your imagination—you really do feel better after a massage. And those benefits might extend to people who suffer from depression, too.
After analyzing 17 studies, researchers from Taiwan concluded that massage therapy sessions significantly reduce their depressive symptoms. Still, more controlled studies are needed to nail down which massage therapy protocols are most effective, the researchers say.
MASSAGE BENEFIT: EASE ANXIETYPeople with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may benefit from a massage, too, a new study from Emory University discovered.
After six weeks of Swedish massage therapy, patients with GAD experienced a significant reductions in scores on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, which measures feelings of worries, tension, fears, insomnia, dry mouth, and restlessness.
MASSAGE BENEFIT: LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSUREYou don’t just feel chilled out after a massage--your blood pressure might take a dip, too, according to a study from Iran.
Women with prehypertension who received Swedish massage for 10 to 15 minutes three times a week saw a 12 mm Hg drop in their systolic blood pressure after their sessions. And the BP-lowering effect remained for 72 hours after the massage.