Physiological Benefits From a Massage Chair
A massage chair client of mine forwarded a link to me from the Wall Street Journal regarding recent studies on the topic of massage and it’s physiological benefits.
Much of what the article discussed has already been addressed by yours truly in previous articles and blog posts, such as boosted immune system, improved lung function, and decreased pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis, but I thought I’d go into a bit more detail about each of them and the studies referenced in this article, along with a new study touting a new benefit that I found rather interesting.
Potential Massage Chair Benefits:
1. Many of our massage chair clients buy massage chairs because they help with their pain from osteoarthritis. With osteoarthritis (or degenerative arthritis) joint pain and muscle pain are not uncommon. The study referenced in this article was a 2006 Archives of Internal Medicine piece showing how a full-body swedish massage helped reduce arthritis pain symptoms of the knee. The participants in the study were massaged 2x per week for 4 weeks and then 1x per week for another 4 weeks.
The results were pretty cool: less pain, less stiffness, increased range of motion, and less time to walk a 50 foot path. I have found in my personal experience that massage chairs to tend to reduce arthritis pain and stiffness in many joints of the body, as well as increase range of motion.
2. A 2009 study of 30 participants demonstrated boosted immune reponse and lower heart rate and blood pressure. The participants were women with breast cancer undergoing radiation treatment.
The notion that massage can reduce pain and stiffness is a natural given, but the idea of a more visceral benefit, i.e. immune system, heart rate, and blood pressure is fascinating.
3. Asthmatic children who received 20 minute massages nightly from their parents for 5 weeks, along with their standard asthma treatment, improved their lung function compared to a group of children who only received the standard asthma treatment. This is from a 2011 study.
I have seen many clients use a massage chair in our showroom and then mention that they felt they could breathe deeper after a session on the chair. It does not surprise me in the least that asthmatics lung function was improved following massage treatments.
4. A study done on 53 participants in 2010 compared the effects of one 45-minute swedish massage to a 45-minute session of just light touch. The results are pretty cool…the folks who had received the massage had 1.) a large decrease in arginine-vasopressin, which is a hormone that increases with stress and aggressive behavior, and 2.) lower levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and 3.) a decrease in cytokine proteins, which are active participants in the inflammation and allergic reactions of the body.
5. I found this final study to be very interesting, albeit a small study. This study found that a 10-minute massage promoted muscle recovery after exercising. The study involved 11 young men who were asked to exercise to exhaustion. Immediately after the exercise, each of the young men received a massage in one leg.
Muscle biopsies were taken right before the exercise, right after the massage, and then 2.5 hours after that. The biopsies were taken from each leg, the massaged leg and the unmassaged leg (quad muscles). The results of the biopsies showed that the massage boosted the production of mitochondria, which is the cellular component in everyone’s body that creates the energy for the body, and reduced proteins associated with inflammation in the muscles.
It all sounds pretty good, eh?
Well, the bottom line, in my mind, is massage is massage, whether it is from human hands or the robotic rollers of a massage chair.
Dr. Alan Weidner
If you’d like to read the whole article, here it is: http://on.wsj.com/GHGNbu
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