Swedish Massage can be Addictive!
We all know how good Swedish massage feels. I usually begin and end a vacation by booking ninety-minute therapeutic massage sessions at whatever Spa happens to be closest to my hotel. What many of us don’t realize, however, is that Swedish massage may actually be addictive and alter our body’s chemistry.
Researchers at the Touch Research Institute reviewed more than 30 studies regarding the biochemical effects of massage therapy and concluded that massage decreases the Cortisol levels in our body while increasing the levels of Dopamine and Serotonin. But what are these chemicals/hormones, and what do they do?
Swedish Massage and Cortisol
Cortisol is produced in our adrenal glands and is often referred to as our body’s primary stress hormone. It is responsible for the fight or flight mechanism that we have all experienced at some point in our lives. Cortisol also plays an important role in regulating our blood pressure, blood sugar, and sleeping cycles. It also helps regulate how our bodies process carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. By lowering the cortisol levels in our bodies, Swedish massage can help alleviate stress, lower our blood pressure, and even reduce inflammation.
Massage and Our Dopamine Addiction
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that relays information between brain cells. It plays an important role in our physical movement, speech, and even in what foods we crave. Dopamine plays a huge role in how we feel each day. By naturally increasing our dopamine levels, massage can actually make us feel better on a biochemical level. Drugs, such as cocaine, have a similar, albeit more profound, effect on the dopamine levels in our bodies. These drugs can quickly raise our dopamine levels making us feel better almost immediately. The downside is, of course, that such drugs are highly addictive and have a multitude of horrible side effects. I think we can all agree that massage is a much better alternative to illicit drugs, or any drugs for that matter. Research has shown that conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), obesity, and Parkinson’s Disease may be caused by, or exacerbated by, low levels of dopamine.
Swedish Massage and Serotonin
Much like dopamine, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that sends messages between nerve cells in the brain. Therapeutic massage increases serotonin levels which can put us in a better mood. Low levels of serotonin in the brain have been associated with depression. Additionally, serotonin is thought to play an important role in such mental health disorders as epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Many benefits of Swedish Massage
There are many benefits of massage in addition to the biochemical affect it has on our bodies. Massage reduces the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, reduces muscle tension, improves body posture, strengthens our immune system, promotes better lung function, helps rid the body of toxins, promotes lymph flow, increases range of motion, and much more. For a more in depth explanation of these benefits, please refer to the Massage Fort Myers benefits of massage page.