Massage therapy can help strengthen your immune system

Doreen Ellinwood Massage Therapist, Vice President of Regional Operations Massage Envy Spa

When you think about ways to beat the flu, your mind goes to loading up on Vitamin C, frequent hand washing, or maybe staying indoors all winter. A better response is massage. While many people know that the main benefits of massage are stress relief, improved circulation and relaxation, most are unaware that massage actually has a profound influence on your immune system.

In a study by Gail Ironson, M.D., HIV-positive men were given 45 minute massages five days a week for a month. They showed an increase in serotonin and an increase in cells that are viewed as the first line of defense in the immune system. Another study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles showed that after just one massage participants had increased their disease-fighting white blood cell count and decreased stress hormone levels. Because massage therapy helps heighten the body’s immune response as it naturally helps reduce pain and stress, it is one of the most enjoyable ways to stay healthy.


Do round out your wellness regimen

Add massage therapy to your wellness regimen. A healthy lifestyle includes more than just exercise, good nutrition, and plenty of sleep. By including massage in your routine, you can further boost your body’s ability to stay healthy and fight infection. All of these steps help your body fight bacteria that might get you sick and make your heart, lungs and muscles better able to do their jobs. Adding massage to your workout routine promotes better sleep and helps aid in muscle recovery to keep stress and soreness at bay so you can stay on track with your wellness goals.

Do lower life stressors

There are a number of natural ways to keep your stress levels down between massage therapy sessions, including meditation, hot baths, walking outdoors and yoga. Elevated stress hormones are known to suppress the body’s immune response, so lowering these stressors will reduce your immune system’s effectiveness. In addition to being enjoyable, massage is a proven method for relieving stress and reversing its deteriorating effects.

Do check credentials

When searching for a medical professional, you look for someone who is accredited and recommended by trusted sources. Use the same diligence when seeking out a massage therapist. A professional, trusted therapist possesses the necessary education and expertise needed to meet specific state and local licensing requirements. Spas and clinics are also required to meet specific criteria. If a therapist hasn’t made an investment in their education, you shouldn’t invest your time and money on them.

Do try aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the proverbial icing on the cake. Offering more than pleasant scents, each essential oil used in aromatherapy has a unique combination of chemical compounds that interact with the body. Partnering these combinations with therapeutic touch can affect the body’s chemistry in amazing ways. For example, some blends (like those with peppermint and wintergreen) decrease pain in muscles and joints, while others (like bergamot and jasmine) act as natural antidepressants. The benefits of citrus oils on the immune system have been the most studied. By finding aromatherapy blends that reduce stress and pain and promote sleep, your next massage can positively affect the immune system.

Do heal with heat

A warm muscle is a happy muscle. Studies show that a higher body temperature helps certain immune cells work better. When your circulation is increased through massage, your body temperature will drop, so let your therapist know if you’re not warm enough during your session. While you’re at it, next time you’re scheduling your massage, try hot stone therapy. Some spas also use topical warming lotions for added heat.


Do not wait until you get sick to get a massage

When you’re sick, your body wants you to slow down so it can focus on healing. While massage seems like the best way to relax and take it easy, it actually has the opposite effect. Because massage increases your circulation, it can make it harder for your body to pinpoint areas it is working to heal. This can overtax your kidneys and spleen, both of which are important to your immune system. If your immune system is weakened, you don’t want to be vulnerable to other people’s germs, or worse, out spreading your own.

Do not think of massage as a special treat or a once a year event

Much like working out, the long-lasting benefits of massage are cumulative. Since we know that many illnesses and health issues are caused and exacerbated by stress, you can think of your monthly session as preventative, natural medicine.

Do not forget to take time for yourself

We live in a non-stop, go-go-go world. Not taking the time to unplug and decompress causes stress and sometimes insomnia. Turn off the TV or computer before bedtime. Give yourself more time to do the things you enjoy and things that need to get done. A massage is a great way to escape from the 24/7 stress of everyday life. When you’ve been unfairly neglecting yourself, double up on the “me time” immunity boost by adding extra time to your next massage session.

Do not stay silent

Massage therapists are used to working with clients with varying preferences and want you to enjoy your session as much as you do. If you’re not comfortable with the music, sound levels, room temperature, lighting or massage technique, you should speak up. A professional massage therapist will accommodate your requests without taking anything personally. A pleasant, stress-free session will give you and your body the best possible benefits. Relax knowing the session is customized for you and make the most of your massage.

Do not break the bank

If spending the day at a spa is not in your monthly budget, there are several cost-effective and convenient options available to you. Look for affordable, convenient and professional massage clinics offering monthly cost-effective memberships that allow you to commit to massage therapy without financial stress. Joining a massage clinic that works with your budget and schedule will make you more likely to stick to a healthy wellness routine. Your muscles and your immune system will thank you.

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Massage therapy has a profound influence on your immune system. Medical studies show that just one massage has immediate benefits on the immune system and regular massage provides cumulative, long-term benefits. By lowering stress hormone levels and increasing disease-fighting white blood cell count, massage therapy is an effective treatment in the fight to boost immunity. The benefits of massage therapy go well beyond boosting one’s immunity and its natural methods make it one of the most affordable and enjoyable ways to stay healthy.

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Doreen EllinwoodMassage Therapist, Vice President of Regional Operations

Doreen Ellinwood has been a massage therapist with Massage Envy Spa for 9 years. Other interests include knitting and Jazzercise. She lives in Morris County, New Jersey, with her husband and two cats. ...

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