Do massages really work? (Hint: Yes.)


Massage therapy has long been thought of as an effective and reliable way to achieve heightened relaxation and comfort, but there are still plenty of skeptics not entirely convinced of its objective benefits. While it used to be primarily considered a component of alternative medicine, it has recently become more closely aligned with mainstream practices. You can get a massage almost anywhere nowadays, at your workplace and hospitals and even at the airport. Here is a breakdown of the main proven physical and mental benefits massage therapy can have on your life.

Physical benefits of massage

Whether you’re recovering from an injury or simply looking to improve your wellbeing, there are a number of far-reaching benefits regular massage sessions can have on your physical state, including:

  • Reduced heart and respiratory rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Reduced soreness
  • Improved healing time of strained muscles
  • Improved flexibility
  • Improved posture

The relaxation response

Massage techniques play a role in activating what’s known as the relaxation response – an involuntary response of the nervous system that slows your heart rate and breathing, decreases blood pressure, and reduces the output of stress hormones. When pressure is applied to your soft tissues, it also sets a series of mechanical responses in motion, increasing blood circulation and bringing damaged muscles the blood supply they need to begin to heal.

Muscle recovery

It’s been shown that massage improves the healing time of strained muscles and reduces pain, swelling, and scarring while also improving flexibility. Studies have found that a 10-minute massage after a workout can reduce muscle soreness by 30 percent, and that during a massage, lymph fluids increase in movement and more effectively supply nutrients to your cells. These are just a few of the ways massage can play a role in improving your overall physical health.

Mental benefits of massage

As beneficial as massage can be for the body, the mental and emotional impact it can have is perhaps even more crucial. It serves as a proven benefit for anxiety and depression and promotes a relaxed state of calmness and awareness within your everyday life. Mental benefits of massage include:

  • Eased anxiety and depression
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy
  • Decreased risk of illness due to reduced stress

The power of touch

The simple act of human touch has been proven to instill a feeling of well-being in patients. In one massage study, the level of the stress hormone cortisol dropped by 31 percent while feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin increased by roughly 30 percent following a massage. This mental impact also plays a role in your physical health, as people who experience high levels of stress are more prone to illness and to events like heart attack or stroke.

Better sleep

It’s no secret stress and anxiety can keep us up throughout the night as we lose sleep to worries and concerns of all sizes. The relaxing impact of regular massage can help lead to better sleep in your everyday life, resulting in increased energy and awareness during the daylight hours.

The benefits of regular massage

While getting a massage once every few months will certainly help your wellbeing, you should see a massage therapist on a more regular basis to experience the greatest continual benefit. This sustained relationship will allow the therapist to build on your body’s improvement in every session and to compound the advantages toward your overall health.

Massage therapy from Western Wisconsin Health

Western Wisconsin Health offers integrative health services that focus on healing the whole person, with the goal of improving the quality of life for our patients. Schedule an appointment today to experience a holistic approach to healthcare that focuses on the mind, body, and spirit.