Stress and Massage
Why get a massage? According to a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association, 28% of Americans who get a massage do so for relaxation and stress reduction. That’s a lot of people in the US who feel strongly enough about their own experiences about the benefits of massage for stress reduction. But aside from individual feelings, what exactly do we know about massage and how it relates to stress? And what does the research have to say about that?
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s response to demanding circumstances. Working late hours? You’ll experience stress. Prepping for a big competition? Definitely stressful. Toddler throwing a tantrum? That’s no doubt stressful for both of you. When you’re stressed, your blood pressure goes up, your breathing and heart rate quicken, and you feel jittery and distracted. All this is useful if your stress is a result the big race you’re running, when you can put that energy to good use. It’s less helpful if your stressor is a friend in need of patience and comfort.
People who regularly put themselves into stressful circumstances on purpose (public speakers, for example) often learn how to channel that stress response for their own benefit, but it takes practice over time. When stress goes from being an occasional experience to a chronic condition, health problems result.
What kinds of studies have been done on massage for stress?
While stress levels are largely subjective, studies focused on pain, sleep, and other outcomes often find that patients report decreased stress levels as one of the major benefits they receive from massage therapy treatments. In one study on pain in acute care settings, more than half of the patients mentioned relaxation in their survey responses. One described the experience of receiving massage as “very helpful, soothing, comforting, and relaxing,” which is notable considering how stressful being hospitalized is. Improved emotional well-being and sleep were also mentioned by many patients and nurses, both of which are good indicators of stress reduction.
What does all this mean?
People report feeling that massage reduces their level of stress.
Stress is closely tied to pain, sleep, and other factors. Reducing pain reduces stress levels. Reducing stress levels can reduce pain. Improved quality of sleep positively impacts both pain and stress. Does massage therapy work primarily through either pain or stress reduction, or does it impact both equally? This is an area for further study.
Massage therapy is a fairly safe way to manage stress. With relatively few drug interactions and a very low
chance for injury, massage therapy can be helpful to a wide variety of people dealing with stress created by different situations. From the smallest infants to athletes to people in hospice, there are few who could not benefit from massage therapy.
If you’re feeling stressed, massage therapy is worth trying. Are you ready to live with less stress? Book your next massage today.