Benefits of Massage for Health and Happiness

April 10, 2022
Benefits of Massage for Health and Happiness

Stretching the muscles, mobilizing the joints, and kneading the pain points is the most aged art of healing. Getting a massage indicates taking care of yourself but also better resisting the stress that triggers pathologies. But what are the real health benefits of massage?

The source of this healing gesticulation dates back to Antiquity. Old Chinese manuscripts evoke the use of massages 3,000 years BC.

“The Greeks and Romans also suggested having a massage to speed up recovery, revive the body, or reduce pain after gladiator games”, remarks Jean-Marc Harel-Ramond, psychotherapist and sophrologist.

But in the West, despite the usefulness observed, the practice has long been ignored, due in particular to the rise of Christianity, which viewed with a dim view all procedures involving touch and physical contact.

A valuable tool against stress

Benefits of Massage

It is now creating a powerful comeback in the wake of alternative medicine, the need to take care of oneself and curb the stress of modern life.

According to a survey conducted in July 2012 by the Ipsos institute on behalf of the Rééduca salon, only 5% of French people indulge in the benefits of massage. 

Certainly, outside of a medical prescription, the sessions are a bit expensive but when the practitioner is of high quality, they are neither a comfort nor a simple luxury.

Beyond the pleasure and relaxation, it provides at the time, massage has indeed curative virtues, in the short and long term, undisputed. Many clinical studies have noted the relevance of certain maneuvers to reduce joint stiffness and chronic neuromuscular pain, soothe headaches and digestive disorders, and stimulate immune defenses as well as blood and lymphatic circulation.

Once freed from the tensions that assail it, the body is better able to defend itself, in particular, to better resist stress. However, it turns out to be the trigger or even the accelerator of eight out of ten current pathologies, underlines Christophe Fosseur, masseur-physiotherapist.

Also Read: Yoga: 5 Poses for Toning, Strengthening, Flexibility

These long-known positive impacts have, for decades, been attributed solely to the increase in skin temperature in the treated area, to the elimination of locally accumulated toxic waste, but also and above all to the placebo effect. generated by being cared for, cocooned.

Not to mention the irrational explanations put forward to justify the supposed benefits of some practices of exotic inspiration, which are generally oriental only in name. Hence the skepticism – even mistrust – of some about the real usefulness of massages.

Anti-inflammatory power

Canadian experimenters have cracked the inner workings of their methods of activity on humans. And, surprise, they would be even more efficient than we imagined insofar as these manipulations are likely to generate chain biochemical modifications in the body that spread to the very core of the cells, at the status of their DNA.

For their study, biologists from the Department of Neuromuscular and Neurometabolic Diseases at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, recruited eleven young athletes whom they made pedaled on a stationary bicycle for seventy minutes at full speed.

After this extreme struggle, each of them aided with a massage on one leg. By analyzing muscle samples taken from the inside of their thighs just before exercise, ten minutes after the massage, and then two and a half hours later, the researchers found that the massage had triggered effects comparable to analgesic treatment. medicated.

Although the biopsies of both legs show the same microlesions caused by forceful pedaling, those taken from the massaged muscles indeed concentrate much less inflammatory molecules than the others. These have not been evacuated by the movements of effleurage, friction, and kneading, but quite simply muzzled by the muscle cells themselves.

Explanation: the pressures induced by the massage are detected by tiny sensors embedded in the membrane of the cells. These immediately transmit the information inside their cell in the form of molecular signals (protein kinases with modified structures).

From then on, the cellular machinery starts up and causes cascading events which result in the activation of nine genes that are usually silent, some of which neutralize the inflammatory process.

This is why immediate pains and aches the next day are reduced. But that’s not all. In the longer term, other solicited genes encourage the genesis of new mitochondria, these small organelles responsible for the production of energy inside the cells. The increase in their number can take several weeks.

Also, the massaged tissues will be more toned and better armed against attacks during all this time.

Anxiolytic effects

Very strong maneuvers all over the body, such as those carried out during a real Swedish or Californian massage, also have a beneficial effect on the immune and hormonal systems. 

Specific deep touch receptors located in the dermis, the layer of skin located just under the epidermis, are stimulated on this occasion. They then transmit nerve stimulants to the spinal cord, which takes them to the brain.

In response, it begins to produce large amounts of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphin, the cerebral hormones of relief and pleasure that immediately diffuse throughout the body via the bloodstream.

An American study, conducted in September 2010 at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, clearly demonstrated that it also resulted in a significant reduction in the secretion of cortisol, the stress hormone. Intravenous catheters were set in the arms of fifty-three healthful volunteers. All then lay down on a comfortable massage table, in a strictly identical setting.

But solely half of them obtained a Swedish massage of forty-five minutes in the laws of the art. The others were only authorized light contacts, especially effleurages. Examination of blood samplings taken from all participants before and after the session obviously revealed the difference.

In people who have been really massaged, there is a marked increase in the concentration of lymphocytes (white blood cells of the immune system) and a significant decrease in vasopressin, a hormone that controls blood tension and the liberation of cortisol by the adrenal glands.

In others, on the other hand, only an increase in oxytocin (the hormone of satisfaction) is detectable. The anxiolytic effect of massages is therefore not a simple placebo effect.

Work on physical and psychological tensions

“Touch is not just physical contact. Skillfully used, it can have an emotional impact, connect the individual to themselves and to others, open to inner touch”, explains Isabelle Barat, shiatsuki and reflexology trainer.

Some massages manage to evacuate repressed emotions and physical and psychological tensions. The somato-psycho-pedagogy sessions at the Miramar Crouesty thalassotherapy center fall under this principle.

Solely like the biodynamic massages presented by some sophrologists and health practitioners. By associating touch and speech, they release the traumas inscribed in the body that generate psychosomatic ailments.

Who can perform massages?

But for a massage to bring real health benefits, it still needs to be performed correctly.

In France, the legislation is strict in theory. “Only physiotherapists have the privilege to accomplish massages, explains Christophe Fosseur. Other practitioners (beauticians, hydrotherapists, spa employees, etc.) can provide manual therapies only under the name of massages.”

Admittedly, a perfect knowledge of gestures and anatomy is essential for the result to be up to par. But all massage specialists will inform you that it is not the certification that creates the practitioner’s mastery.

Among physiotherapists, skills are very heterogeneous. The same applies to masseurs who officiate in massage or thalassotherapy centres. Some have merely obtained an internship of periodic days, which is very obviously inadequate. Others have undergone real training and practice knowingly.

In schools approved by the French Federation of Wellness Massage (FFMBE) such as the Ling Dao Institute, a minimum of two hundred hours of lessons is required to claim the title of professional masseur. 

“At the Tapovan center, more than five hundred hours of teaching are provided to train in Ayurvedic massage”, notes Patricia Bognon of the Relais Thalasso on the Ile de Ré.

In other metiers, the procedure can be even extended. Two to five years of training are necessary to become, for example, a shiatsu pro. Don’t hesitate to ask before placing yourself in the hands of somebody. Because a poorly performed massage can do more extra damage than satisfaction.

Beware of massage machines

Also beware of machines, more and more often offered to treat cellulite, reduce scars or accelerate the recovery of athletes.

Even if some are intelligently designed, “nothing beats an expert hand that adapts to the body and the specific needs of each, assures Dr. Jocelyne Geoffroy, a doctor at the Roscoff thalassotherapy. An ill-adjusted palpate-rolling machine risks breaking the skin fibers and weakening the vessels.”

Its use is only conceivable in addition to manual treatment, and only after a diagnosis established by a doctor or a physiotherapist. When it comes to massage, “ready-to-wear” certainly has no place. Only “tailor-made” guarantee quality and efficiency.

Choose expert hands

During the first sessions, the practitioner should not attack his massage ball in mind, but question you about your physical condition and your expectations. If he doesn’t, run away!

For the contact to be likable, his hands must be warm and flexible. And whatever technique is used, it must always start with broad and lightly supported movements in order to establish a progressive contact with your body.

You must feel that he is fully in what he is doing and not that he is chaining routine gestures. Trust your own feelings. A masseur may work for your friends and not for you.

A good massage should put you in a trance. If you have a fragile neck, report it to the practitioner and make sure that the table has a hole to keep your head straight.

What contraindications?

Wrongly dispensed, a massage can have catastrophic effects. If you have allergies, find out about the composition of the oil used (almond, sesame, camphor, etc.), especially if it contains essential oils (lavender, lemon, etc.).

In the event of an open wound or a recent burn, any massage is not recommended. Similarly, in case of phlebitis because the maneuvers exerted on the legs can displace a blood clot and cause a pulmonary embolism. Unless you are negotiating with an incredibly technical practitioner.

Be also vigilant if you suffer from cancer, especially of the breast, so as not to induce the spread of metastases. And, of course, no kneading of the stomach when you are expectant.

Image by Arina Krasnikova via Pexels

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Margaud Raynaud is a beauty expert with over 10 years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge and tips with others and has a particular interest in skincare and makeup. When she's not writing about health and beauty, Margaud enjoys trying out new products and experimenting with different looks. Follow her blog for expert advice and inspiration for living your best life.

All Comments

  • Your article is both educational, informative and entertaining. You’ve perfectly summed up everything.
    Thank you so much for sharing it. 🙂

    Samia Johnson April 10, 2022 9:48 pm