The Science Behind Massages: How Do They Really Work?
Whenever someone says they are sore or their body feels achy, usually one of the first responses is “you should go get a massage,” but not many people know the reason behind why massages work. That’s why we are here! Massages aren’t just a luxury to feel good, they actually do have proven benefits and there is real scientific evidence behind their effectiveness. So let’s get into it!
Lately, research has shown on a cellular level of the body that massage therapy can assist in healing… and yes, even just after one session. In a particular study that was conducted, researchers found that after giving a massage to a group of athletes who just finished a vigorous workout, their muscle tissues and blood showed an increase in the gene responsible for mitochondria development, which is the “powerhouse” of the cell for cell growth and energy, as opposed to the group that did not receive the massage post-exercise. In addition, muscle tissue “kneading” and “lifting” is known to turn “off” genes that associate with inflammation and turns “on” genes that assist in healing muscles. In another study conducted by Mark Tarnopolsky, a neurometabolic researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, published his results in Science Translational Medicine suggesting that massage suppresses the inflammation while promoting faster healing.
In addition to the turning on and off of genes, there’s another interesting factor that plays a role behind all this called the “gate theory.” In short, under your skin are both pressure receptors and pain receptors and the pressure receptors transmit information more quickly to the brain than the pain receptors. So, if both pain and pressure receptors are transmitting signals at the same time, the pressure receptors will override and partially mitigate the pain signals. Have you ever bumped your hip on a sharp corner and you immediately start to massage the area where you feel pain? This is because you activate the pressure receptors and are “closing the gate” so to say in order to prevent the pain signals from reaching the brain.
But wait… that’s not all! Massage therapy also increases the activity of the vagus nerve which connects the brain and spine to the organs, and in response helps control the parasympathetic nervous system which helps you to relax and mellow out, which can help lower the body’s levels of stress-inducing hormones such as cortisol and arginine vasopressin, which induces high blood pressure. Massage can also increase the feel-good hormones of the brain to help with depression, and also lead to a boost in white blood cells, therefore making your immune system stronger and helping the body fight infections, viruses and the like.
So next time you are sore, feeling run-down, depressed, achy, or just feel like your body needs some TLC, we are here for you! Book your next massage appointment with us today and let us help your body heal!