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Can Massage actually Boost your Immune System?

A massage feels great… but can it also have true and positive effects on our immune systems?  The good news is that it can!


It is a well-known fact that people who suffer high levels of stress, especially long-term stress, are more prone to illness and injury.  When we are stressed our bodies produce stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and these in turn can have an adverse effect on our heart rate, weight, blood pressure and sleep, as well as many others.  Massage has the opposite effect on the body as it induces relaxation, and relaxation counterbalances stress.  We seem to be living in a world where the demands placed on us are becoming greater and greater, and whilst we may not be able to manage the amount of stress in our lives, but we can certainly do things to help counter it.


In addition to having an effect on our stress levels, massage also has a direct effect on the circulatory system.  The circulatory system is responsible for the transportation of oxygenated blood around the body and the filtering and removal of waste from the body.  Our white blood cells (leukocytes) are housed in the circulatory system and have a primary function of protecting us against illness and disease.  They are basically the immune cells and thus a healthy circulatory system is imperative for good immune defence.  Massage works directly on the circulatory system encouraging blood flow to the heart and aids in the removal of toxins. 


Research from the University of Roehampton in London reveals that regular massage not only improves the delivery of white blood cells around the body, but it can actually increase the white blood cell count.  This same research showed that white blood cells were boosted by an incredible 70% in the group that had regular massage.  White blood cells are stored in glands that are connected to the skin by nerves, when the body is massaged, these nerves are stimulated, encouraging the glands to release the white blood cells into the circulatory system.  Some forms or massage are more targeted to the circulatory system, such as lymphatic drainage massage, but any type of massage will certainly help to support and boost the circulatory system.


Further research, from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, confirmed that people who received a 45-minute massage had an increased number of lymphocytes after just that one massage.  This same study group also demonstrated increased levels of cytokines which play an anti-inflammatory role.  Reduced inflammation in the body can help with inflammatory conditions such as asthma and cardiovascular disease.  This research confirms that by having a massage, one can experience measurable positive changes in the body’s immune and endocrine response.


Another important element to consider is that massage can often help to relieve pain, and pain can have a direct effect on the immune system. Being in pain has a significant immunosuppressive effect on the system and so massage will do the opposite and help the immune system to function more optimally.


One can often think of massage as being a bit of a luxury treat, but we now have access to more and more research that confirms that a massage goes way beyond the ‘feel good’ factor.


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