As someone who has worked with massage therapists and massage patients alike, I’ve seen the benefits of massage therapy over the long-term and how it can transform a person’s health. People who come in with physical injuries walk away weeks or months later with a renewed sense of health. But what about those who seek massage to help cardiovascular complications?
A large majority of people seek massage therapy to relieve stress, muscle tension and/or pain. While this centuries-old practice is certainly effective at treating all of these conditions, a new study suggests that regular sessions of massage therapy may also improve cardiovascular health in the long term.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in both men and women, taking the lives of approximately 600,000 people each year in the U.S. alone. According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), however, individuals can reduce their risk of heart disease with massage.
This revolutionary new study, published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, found massage therapy was effecting at helping control blood pressure in women with pre-hypertension. Researchers concluded that pre-hypertensive women experienced lowered blood pressure for up to 72 hours after receiving a moderate-pressure massage. Of course, regulated blood pressure levels translates into a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
So what does this mean for patients who are pre-hypertensive? The addition of massage therapy to a treatment plan means a new, natural method of reducing heart disease complications. In fact, recognizing massage therapy as a viable treatment for high blood pressure, hypertension, and other cardiovascular predictors is all due to people moving towards a more holistic view of medicine and treatment.
However, this study in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine is not the first study linking massage therapy to improved heart health. Swedish researchers conducted a similar study in which people who were classified as either hypertensive or pre-hypertensive received regular sessions of Swedish or standard massage therapies. Not surprisingly, researchers found that people who received massage therapy for a minimum of four weeks had significantly lower blood pressure than the control group who did not receive massage therapy.
“Most clients think of massage therapy as a useful approach for managing back pain or promoting relaxation, but there are other benefits to massage that improve overall health, particularly when it comes to the heart,“ said Nancy M. Porambo, President of the American Massage Therapy Association. “Many see tremendous outcomes from introducing massage into their cardiovascular rehabilitation routine, as this Research Round-up shows.”
There are dozens of different types of prescription medicine designed to treat high blood pressure and protect against heart disease. Unfortunately, many of these drugs come with potentially life-threatening side effects, including stroke and kidney failure.
But just how exactly can massage therapy lower an individual’s blood pressure and protect against heart disease? The answer might be within the natural release of oxytocin and serotonin during a massage. Massage therapy lowers stress levels naturally with these chemicals, and high stress is a key contributor to many cardiovascular disease predictors. An increase in stress over long periods of time can cause hypertension, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular issues; therefore, lowering stress through massage can have the opposite effect and erase these symptoms.
When it comes to massage and heart health, it’s easy to see how the two correlate. As shown by the aforementioned studies, massage therapy helps to improve heart health through a natural breakdown of stress. Over time, and as we move into a bolder, holistic view of medicine, we may see more cardiovascular disease treatments include massage therapy, and we may better be able to evaluate and confirm its positive long-term effects.
Robert Ellis is the owner of Massage Tables Now, an online massage table and massage supplies store. He has a strong interest in the benefits of massage therapy in the realm of traditional medicine. Connect with him on Twitter.