When coming to Thailand, one of the first things you might notice is that massage is offered on almost every street corner, and it is CHEAP!!!!! Whenever I visit, the most important budget item I include is enough for a daily massage.
The even better news here is that one does not need any justification for this blissful experience. Massage has been proven to significantly benefit our health. IT’S GOOD FOR YOU!!!
Stress is a proven underlying factor in most of the common disease states plaguing society now, so if we reduce stress, we can improve our health. Massage does just that.
Tiffany Field, founder of the Touch Research Institute in Miami Florida, has studied the health effects of massage on a variety of health disorders, and the results are astonishing.
Field began her research in 1992 and has documented that even a 10 minute chair massage can lower blood pressure and slow down your heart rate. She has found that when given math problems after a massage, people perform, twice as fast with ½ the errors.
The cortisol/serotonin connection:
Cortisol is a hormone that is produced in response to stress in the body. It is important for our survival as it activates our fight or flight response and stimulates energy when necessary. This is however, intended to only be activated for short spurts of time i.e. for emergencies. Unfortunately in our overly-stressed society, cortisol levels for many of us are consistently high, which is unhealthy. When cortisol is lowered, serotonin – the “feel good” hormone – is increased. When there is more serotonin in the system, the mood and emotional state is better, which supports improved health. This is why when we are overly stressed, we are often agitated and upset easily – our serotonin levels are low. Another benefit of reducing cortisol levels is that our natural killer (NK) cells are increased. These are the front line of the immune system. These cells kill cancer, viral and harmful bacterial cells, so we want lots of those in our bodies. When cortisol is up, these NK cells are down, and visa versa, so reducing cortisol is good for the immune system.
Massage helps to keep Cortisol levels in balance. In studies conducted over a 5 month period of time, regular massage reduced cortisol levels by 31%.
In a study at the Touch Research Institute, women with stages 1 and 2 breast cancer were given 30-minute massages three times a week for five weeks. At the end of the study, the women had lower depression and hostility levels and increased urinary levels of serotonin, dopamine, NK cells and lymphocytes—all of which suggested their immune systems were stronger.
Studies involving many different health conditions are resulting with the same positive outcomes. Massage has been proven to support a litany of health concerns including:
- Stress Related disorders
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Paresthesias and nerve pain
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Joint pain And TMJ
- High blood pressure
- Improves Flexibility and range of motion
- Enhances post Operative Rehabilitation
Another interesting point is about those giving the massages. When we give a massage, we gain much of the health benefits that we are giving! This is an energetic truth of giving (details in a future article). Giving and receiving are symbiotically connected experiences, so those giving massages are gaining health benefits as well. When you give someone a rose, you get to smell it first, right?!?
The ideally recommended therapeutic massage dose is around 10 minutes/day. We can even do this for ourselves! Self massage of the neck, arms, legs, feet, is an easy thing to do while watching TV or even while at work! So, while in Thailand, the land of smiles and delicious massages, I recommend one per day for optimal health benefit, and then when returning to “your real life” keep some massage regimen in your life – your body will love you for it!