I try to get in a good ninety minutes of relaxing rubdown at least once a month. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I am transported to the land of peace and relaxation. Like me, I’m sure when you think of a massage, you think relaxation and release from aches and pains, and anxiety. But is there more to gain than just an indulgent afternoon?
Recent studies have shown that by getting a massage you are also helping your heart and arteries stay healthy and youthful. In fact, massage therapy has been proven to help with insomnia, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, cancer pain, and postoperative recovery along with various other medical and emotional conditions.
In 2008, there was a research study of 263 volunteers who had a massage for 45 to 60 minutes. After the massage treatment, their average blood pressure fell by 10 mg Hg, and their heart rate dropped by 10 beats per minute. That’s about as much of a decrease as you might get if a doctor prescribed a new blood pressure medication.
Another study in 2015 examined eight women with high blood pressure who’d had hour-long massages each week for four weeks. At the end of that period, their blood pressure fell by 12 mm Hg systolic (top number) and measurements in the blood reflecting inflammation (specifically VCAM-1 if you like science) fell significantly. Meanwhile, the control group who just rested for the same amount of time had smaller improvements in the same measurements. The drop in markers of inflammation further demonstrate that massage therapy does indeed have a total body healing effect.
Is it time to ditch your blood pressure medication? Throw away your magnesium, CoQ10 and taurine blood pressure lowering supplements? Forego your plant-based diets full of phytonutrient-rich leafy green vegetables and arginine rich pine nuts, arugula and watermelon?
Now let’s not get crazy!
Massage therapy has been proven to help, but clearly is not quite on par with current alternative treatments. Studies have not yet proven a reduction in heart attacks, strokes, and heart related deaths, and likely never will be due to the high cost of such research projects.
However, massage therapy can now happily join acupuncture, Pilates, meditation, and Yoga as complementary approaches to maintaining favorable heart health for those tens of millions of people in the US that grapple with high blood pressure.
Like Buddha said: “to keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
Time to put a weekly massage on that “to do” schedule!