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how does massage therapy reduce stress

How Does Massage Therapy Reduce Stress?

Stress kills. From heart disease to depression, there’s no doubt about that—but there are a lot of questions about the best way to relieve stress. While there are many proven and effective ways to reduce your stress levels and the adverse health effects of stress, massage is one of your best options. How does massage therapy reduce stress? It soothes your body, mind, and soul. Here’s how:

A Relaxing Environment

The environment your massage takes place in is just as important as the massage itself.  Quality massage therapy offices generally create a calming atmosphere. It’s quiet, clean, and free from distractions. This time for mindfulness alone can reduce stress. 

Some research suggests that as little as 15 minutes of quiet relaxation may even alter your gene expressions, specifically those related to inflammation, glucose metabolism, and sleep. Massage creates the perfect environment to clear and calm your mind.

Pain Relief

Stress can create a vicious cycle. The more stressed you get, the tighter your muscles become, leading to pain, which makes it hard to sleep and work, leading to more stress and pain, and on and on. Many massage techniques work to release that tension, stretching and soothing muscle fibers, leading to a better range of motion and pain relief. 

Options that trigger the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), such as trigger point therapy, are particularly useful for stress and pain relief as they can slow your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure. Hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions are common effects of excess stress.

Hormonal Response

The skin pressure and movements used in massage trigger a series of hormonal responses along with vagus nerve activity that directly reduces stress and improves mood. For example, studies show that a ten-minute massage can drop your cortisol levels (the “stress” hormone) by more than 30% while encouraging dopamine and serotonin release (the “happy” hormones).

Massage can also improve immune response and encourage lymphatic drainage, in turn reducing inflammation which can trigger cortisol release.

The Psychological Effect

While many of the benefits of massage for stress are well documented, researchers can’t deny the possibility that there’s some degree of a placebo effect to current results. 

Many people associate massage with relaxation—a way to pamper yourself—meaning they expect to feel relaxed, and that may play a role in why massage works so well for stress. Of course, that point matters more to researchers than it does to you. Whether massage prompts a specific physical response, a mental shift, or both, the results are the same: stress relief.

Schedule an Appointment Today

It’s one thing to read about how massage therapy reduces stress—it’s another to experience it. If you would like to give therapeutic massage for stress relief a try and are in the Northern Atlanta Metro area, call (770) 592-2505 to schedule an appointment. Massage therapy from Ribley Chiropractic will change your life!