It doesn’t take a scientist to know that getting a massage feels oh so good – but it does actually require science to explain why.
Sure, we all know the general reason why massages feel so good. A combination of the relaxing atmosphere, scented oils, and tension releasing touch of the masseuse is enough to rid anyone of their troubles for $60 per hour.
But it’s more than just our senses that are at play during a massage – massages actually have a number of affects on the chemical balances and physiological state of our bodies.
Science Says So
Endorphins are often referred to as the “feel good” chemical, but what exactly are they and why are they referred to in that way?
Endorphins are a naturally occurring hormone that is released within our brains and nervous system that activate the body’s opiate receptors. The ways in which endorphins interact with our receptors actually reduce the pain signals sent to our brains, increase our ability to focus, and have an uplifting affect on our overall mood.
Different massage techniques, especially techniques such as acupressure and trigger point therapy, help our body to create and release higher amounts of endorphins. With our body essentially in “endorphin overdrive”, its no surprise that massages make us feel so good psychologically as well as physically.
Circulation Works Wonders
Massages are commonly used to increase the circulation of different fluids within our bodies through both physical manipulation of the soft tissue as well as through the chemicals that are released as a result of such.
Both improved blood circulation and improved lymph circulation are great ways to increase the flow of oxygen and other nutrients throughout our bodies, specifically to our muscles. This works to create healthier cells and tissues, which in turn helps our bodies to function more efficiently, especially in regards to removal of toxins and waste.
This works wonders for reducing muscle aches and pains and giving us a general feeling of relaxation and wellbeing.
Don’t Mind If I Do(pamine)
Dopamine is yet another hormone released in our bodies that provide us with uplifting psychological effects. It is a neurotransmitter that helps to control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, as well as regulating movement and emotional response. For this reason dopamine plays a large role in reward-motivated behaviours.
But that isn’t all – dopamine (similar to the previously mentioned endorphins) can also have uplifting effects on our moods by encouraging feelings such as joy, inspiration, and enthusiasm.
With massages elevating the amount of dopamine released within our bodies, we are sure to experience these positive effects in no time.
Our Brains Turn Off
Okay maybe our brains don’t turn off in a literal sense (because that would not actually be a good thing), but during a massage our brains do tend to enter into a type of meditative state.
This is more common when we are receiving gentle massages, versus something more aggressive like a deep tissue massage (which only makes sense). As our bodies begin to relax our minds lull. The constant chatter of everyday life that often fills even the smallest corners of our mind dwindles away until we are in a “quiet” place, of sorts, where our brain is neither thinking of nor focusing on anything particular.
This lack of thought has many therapeutic physiological benefits, such as helping us feel at ease and at peace with ourselves and our situations – almost like a sense of euphoria.
Surprise, surprise, another hormone!
Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” because it is most commonly released during intimate interactions such as when we are hugging or kissing a loved one. It positively affects our ability to trust, bond, and empathize.
In simpler terms, oxytocin makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, so it only makes sense that an oxytocin-releasing massage would give us the same feeling.
And That’s Not All!
Now we know why massages feel so good, but did you know that they actually are incredibly beneficial to our health as well?
Massages act as a natural healing mechanism for a variety of health issues because of the chemical and physiological effects they have on our bodies.
Some of the health benefits massages offer (aside from all the ways they make us feel good) include:
- Massage therapy can help heal your body after injuries, surgeries, or trauma by increasing flexibility and function
- Abdominal massages can help solve digestive problems such as constipation
- Massages of the shoulders, neck and head can significantly reduce the symptoms of headaches and migraines
- Massage can help those with insomnia sleep better
- Certain massages are act as natural anti-inflammatories, which can aid in reducing both chronic and acute pain in a number of situations
- Massages can even help your body process and drain lymph fluid, which can improve your immune response, especially in those with auto-immune disorders
Massage therapy has been used for thousands of years in all cultures and areas of the world for good reason: the physical and physiological effects massage therapy provides to us are innumerous, with more benefits being discovered each day.
What Are You Waiting For?
After reading this, it’s clear that science is basically telling you to go ahead and book yourself a massage (or two… or more) – you deserve to treat yourself after a long week, and now you can prove that this little treat is good for your health as well. Not only will you come out with a relaxed body, but you will be in a better mindset as well! A true win-win!