You’ve probably seen all kinds of headlines and social media posts about how to boost your immune system. From eating clean and exercising to oils, herbs, and supplements, there are a lot of claims as to what you can do to give your body an extra leg up to fight off whatever germs are floating around. But one you may not have considered is actually backed up by some incredible research; massage therapy.
So how exactly can something that feels so amazing, also be amazing for your health?
Research1 has shown that stress can deliver a serious blow to your immune system. While short-term stresses are just part of life, they have still been shown to significantly reduce your body’s ability to fight off disease; and if you’re chronically stressed, it’s even more of a pronounced deficit. Massage therapy is an amazing way to reduce physical and emotional stress2 3 which can in turn help your body stay strong in the fight against illness and disease.
Increased White Blood Cell Production
Massage therapy has been shown to increase white blood cell count3, an important part of immune function. Even a single relaxation massage can have this effect! While the physiological process of exactly what’s happening in the body to do this isn’t fully understood yet, the evidence is there to suggest a stark increase in disease-fighting white blood cells both in healthy individuals and those with compromised immune systems.
If you’ve ever had a massage before, you’ve undoubtedly felt physically better after. Part of that is the major decrease in inflammation that happens throughout a session. A study from Cedars-Sinai3 shows a significant decrease in cytokines, a key molecule in the inflammation process, after just a single 45-minute massage therapy session. So yes, it’s not just a matter of relaxing on the table; there is a physiological improvement to both local and systemic inflammation in the body.
Massage therapy not only feels incredible, but the physical health benefits are just as amazing. A swift boost to your immune system is yet another reason to add massage therapy into your regular health care routine. Stay healthy!
A little disclaimer here; once you’re sick, massage isn’t the answer. While it can help boost your immune system, it can actually make your symptoms worse once they’ve developed. And while we love sharing, germs aren’t one of those things we love to receive; nor do the rest of our clients. So if you’re sick, stay home. You’re better off doing everything you can to boost your immune system on a regular basis to prevent an illness from ever happening in the first place.
1 Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Gregory E. Miller
Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry
Psychological Bulletin 2004, Vol. 130, No. 4, 601–630
2 Meier, M., Unternaehrer, E., Dimitroff, S.J. et al.
Standardized massage interventions as protocols for the induction of psychophysiological relaxation in the laboratory: a block randomized, controlled trial.
Sci Rep 10, 14774 (2020).
3 Mark Hyman Rapaport, Pamela Schettler, and Catherine Bresee.
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.