PUT YOUR PAWS ON ME: The Benefits Of Massage Go Beyond Relaxation.
Oct 05, 2010 Posted by Corrie Shenigo
Finn (my boss and feline companion) is a massive proponent and excellent technician of the art of massage. She doesn’t take appointments and pretty much anyone who enters the house and sits on the couch is fair game. She will kneed the crap out of laps, stomachs, legs, arms, my head - I’ve even seen her work her sturdy little paws on a dirty sock she fished out of the laundry (she’s not picky folks). She is a masseuse, a ‘healing arts’ professional, an artist.
So why the good folks at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center decided to direct their time and finances into recruiting a team of massage therapists to conduct an experiment on the benefits of massage – when they easily could have just tossed their test subjects on my couch and let Finn at ‘em – well, it’s just beyond me. (Finn and I are right now shaking our weary heads in befuddled tandem.)
I mean really, CSMC is right here in Los Angeles – and Finn works a heck of a lot cheaper than the herd of masotherapists those doctors and scientists undoubtedly had to wrangle to put their mitts on the 53 test subjects. Well... sigh… they did what they did… we need to let it go. Finn, let it go.
And while the doctors and science-y types at Cedars didn’t exactly take a giant leap of faith (Honestly folks, who doesn’t like to be touched? Ahem, let’s try to keep it clean.), their aim was still noble. They set out to discover whether getting a good massage does more than just relax your muscles and – hurrah – they found that all sorts of good-time-y biological-changing benefits occur during a massage. Here’s the CliffsNotes version.
The masterminds behind the experiment randomly assigned 29 of their human guinea pigs to either a 45-minute deep-tissue Swedish massage or a 45-minute light massage and measured the biological effects. (Um… where exactly do I sign up for this ‘medical torture? ‘Cause I’m in, people. I’m in.) The recipients were fitted with intravenous catheters (Oh. No. I’m out.), allowing the mad scientists to take blood samples before and after – so while that probably put a damper on the “relaxation” portion of the day, let’s just keep in mind that this all happened in the name of ‘science’.
Those subjects that rocked the Swedish massage had significant decreases in the level of cortisol (that crazy stress hormone) in their blood and saliva – ick – as well as an increase in something fancy called lymphocytes (white blood cells that are part of the immune system and therefore your friends). The subjects that got the light massage also had greater increases in oxytocin, which is a hormone associated with contentment – zzzzzz...
Head honcho, Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars had a very, very, very interesting response to his very, very interesting findings.
I like to imagine that Dr. Rapaport is stroking his chin and looking a little towards the ceiling all crazy-like while he says this, so let’s take a moment to get that visual. Okay? Ready? He states, and I quote, that the findings are “…very, very intriguing and very, very exciting – and I’m a skeptic.” – Um. Huh?
While I’m not sure what the good Doctor even means, his fancy (and wordy) study, entitled: “A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals” is published online at The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
This not-entirely-earth-shattering, but good-to-know research was sponsored by the National Center for Complementary Alternative Medicine and the word ‘VERY’.
'til Next Time!"