Massage does more than just relax your muscles. Researchers at Cears-Sinal Medical Center in Los Angeles have found that a single session of massage causes biological changes.
The researchers, sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, recruited 53 healthy adults and randomly selected 29 of them to receive a 45-minute session of deep-tissue Swedish massage with the remaining 24 undergoing a session of light massage.
The volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced a significant decrease in levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in both the blood and saliva as well as a drop in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. Researches also found that the Swedish massage group had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that form part of the immune system.
Those who received the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin (a hormone associated with contentment) that those in the Swedish massage group and substantial decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.
The study was published online in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.