Is one massage enough? Maybe not, but it’s a start. I know that massage makes a difference to me, and to my clients, and now, there’s a little more data about that from the research end of things. Recently, NCCAM sponsored a study that showed that a single massage caused change in the body:
To their surprise, the researchers, sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, found that a single session of massage caused biological changes.
Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.
Cortisol is a key component in the body’s stress response. Stress has been estimated to cause or be secondarily involved in many illnesses, disorders and diseases. Simply put, the body under stress uses up its resources of energy faster when under stress, and a lengthy period of stress wears down the body and mind, depleting our reserves and reducing an effective immune response. This study found differences in these chemical levels after one session. Not 10, not 20, not every day for two weeks. Just one.
How long did it take for the body to go back to its previous levels? Maybe not very long, but the evidence is in – one made a difference.
It’s taken you a certain amount of time in your life to accumulate the stress sitting on your shoulders or weighing on your back. It might take a lot of massage to get rid of all your stress, but no one’s asking you to do that. I’m just suggesting you see if one massage makes a difference. To you.
I started with one massage in 2000 – my very first real massage. I couldn’t take a lot of pressure, and I didn’t have a lot of time on the table, but I could feel that the muscles worked were looser, that I was more relaxed, and that I felt better. I was worried I’d be self-conscious or not be able to relax. But my body did that for me. I know the difference massage makes, but studies like these give me hope that other people will start to understand how massage can make a difference to them.
Bring your body in to a massage therapist, get that sixty- or ninety-minute massage and sink into the table. Your body will respond. It might not fix everything that’s wrong in one session, but we can make a difference. And that’s a good start, if you ask me.