Getting a massage is about so much more than being pampered. Studies are continuing to show that massage therapy provides a host of health benefits beyond just feeling good. It helps by reducing stress, headaches, anxiety and even insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic. Did you know it can also lower blood pressure?
A study published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine looked at 50 women with prehypertension, a state of slightly elevated blood pressure. Prehypertension affects one in every three American adults and is likely to turn into high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease, unless lifestyle factors are addressed. Quitting smoking, eating healthier foods and exercising more can all help to lower blood pressure.
Massage makes a difference
The study followed 50 women, half of whom received Swedish massage for 10 to 15-minute sessions, three times a week, for a total of 10 sessions. The other 25 women were in the control group and relaxed in the same environment but didn't receive massages. Blood pressure was taken before and after each session. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly lower in the women who received massages compared to the women who only relaxed without massages.
The women taking part in the study also had their blood pressure checked 72 hours after their final massage therapy session. They still showed an improvement in their readings. Researchers concluded that massage therapy is a safe and effective way to lower blood pressure.
At-home massage may also work
Other research is also showing that massage, even when self-administered, is a promising method of blood pressure reduction particularly when it's combined with aromatherapy. One study involved 57 people, half of which were shown how to perform aromatherapy-based foot massages on themselves and instructed to do so three times a week. After four weeks, the participants who performed the foot massages showed a decrease in average blood pressure readings as well as lowered states of anxiety compared to the control group.
Check with a doctor first
If you have prehypertension or any other health condition, always consult a doctor before getting a massage. Some health conditions, such as osteoporosis and bleeding disorders, can be contraindications against massage therapy. You also may be advised to avoid massages if you're taking blood-thinning medication. Before your first session, inform your massage therapist of your health history so they can design a massage that will be most beneficial for you.
Forget the notion that getting a massage is just a feel-good way to indulge yourself. Massage therapy can be a powerful ally in your quest to take charge of your health.