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This is what a massage does to you

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Worries we all know. When you’ve taken on too much, you keep feeling the pressure of performance, you’re stressed about your family or work situation … You feel it: not only in your head, but also in the rest of your body.

Stress is without doubt the disease of the 21st century. Continuous tension causes our immunity to drop, and plays a role in psychiatric problems such as burnout, anxiety and depression. Cardiovascular diseases can also be linked to stress. Vital, therefore, to do something about our stress levels.

Good news: one of the most effective ways to relax is massage. Those who allow themselves to be massaged once in a while will certainly recognise this. Your stress disappears a little more with every touch and you experience a deep sense of well-being. But did you know that scientific studies have proven that massage has even more positive effects?

The report of Rapaport

Behavioral scientist and psychiatrist Mark Hyman Rapaport is affiliated with the University of Atlanta. In recent years, he has conducted extensive scientific research into the effects of massage and collected measurable information.

A group of 53 subjects participated in the research. 29 of them received a classical or Swedish massage, the 24 others underwent a lighter form of massage. The results for both groups were astonishing. The researchers took blood samples from the participants before and after the massage, and were able to identify significant differences.

Cuddly Hormone Peaks

In the test group that received a Swedish massage, an increase in lymphocytes was noted. Lymphocytes are a kind of white blood cells that play an important role in our immune system. They also noted a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, and a hormone linked to aggression.

In the other test group a significant increase in oxytocin was observed after the massage with light touches. Oxytocin may be known as ‘the cuddly hormone’. It gives a feeling of security and connection, and is released between babies and their mother, during friendships and sexuality. And therefore also in massage!

Massage makes faster recovery

Oxytocin was discovered in 1909 by British pharmacologist Henry Dale, and was long known as a ‘pregnancy hormone’ because it plays a central role in childbirth and lactation. In the 1970s it was discovered that oxytocin is not only a hormone but also a neurotransmitter: a substance that allows cells in your brain to communicate with each other.

When there is positive mutual contact, your hypothalamus produces extra oxytocin. You feel safe and calm. But the rest of your body also enjoys it: it helps your muscles relax, lowers blood pressure and reduces cortisol. And that’s good news for your resistance.

It should therefore come as no surprise that massage therapy has meanwhile been applied in many care institutions: the increase in oxytocin and reduction in cortisol not only provides a pleasant and peaceful feeling, but also faster healing and recovery.

Conclusion: what are you waiting for?

The study of Rapaport and his colleagues confirms what you already knew for a long time: a massage is a blessing, not only for your head but also for your body. You immediately feel better during a massage, and you also make yourself more resilient to illnesses and stress afterwards.

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