- “Massage therapy has been noted to relax the nervous system by slowing heart rate and blood pressure. Stress and pain hormones are also decreased by massage, reducing pain and enhancing immune function,” says Dr. Tiffany Field, head of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School.
- Field’s research has been published extensively, including in this News in Health article. Her research also indicates that massage helps people sleep better, reduces irritability, and increases sociability.
- Touch increases levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone that improves our feeling of connection to others and decreases anxiety. (Other touch-related activities also release oxytocin!)
- Massage increases relaxation by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- According to News in Health, a study published in 2012 suggests that massage impacts genes! It eases sore muscles after exercise by turning off genes associated with inflammation and turning on genes that help muscles heal.
- A New York Times article suggests that touch to the back and legs is soothing, while touch to the face, belly, and neck is stimulating. What do you think about this?
- The item I found most interesting was reported in Psychology Today: the person giving a massage experiences as great a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol as the person receiving the massage! I would agree, and add that endorphins are released for both parties. I experience feelings of connection, closeness, and uplifted mood when I give an Esalen relaxation massage. The shared experience between giver and receiver during a massage is very powerful!
You’ve probably heard about Harry Harlow’s famous rhesus monkey experiments in the 1960s that showed baby monkeys preferred the terry-cloth monkey mom to the one with the milk. It seemed a surprise that the baby monkeys needed touch more than nourishment, and even risked starvation if they had to choose between the two. Since then, scientists have done a lot more research on the physiological impact of skin-on-skin touch: