A short piece called “Regimens: Massage benefits are more than skin deep” is the most emailed story on the New York Times website today.
And apparently all kinds of people are completely surprised, since, according to the article, so were the researchers!
At least, that's what we’re led to believe with snippets like,
“Does a good massage do more than just relax your muscles? To find out, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles…”
“To their surprise, the researchers, …, found that a single session of massage caused biological changes.”
Listen everybody, this was not shocking to any of these researchers nor to anyone who understands that if you become relaxed, less stressed, or happier, THAT’S YOUR BIOLOGY CHANGING.
Not only that, but the importance of massage and touch has been known for a long time, not just by scientists but by introductory psychology students.
Ever heard of Harry Harlow’s monkey experiments?
Touch is not just love but it's also life.
Now what IS ACTUALLY PROBABLY news here (but I'm not an expert in this field of research so I'm not sure), is that they found differences between the effects of Swedish massage and “light” massage.
Massage therapists and massage connoisseurs probably already knew that there were different outcomes to different methods, but these scientists actually measured what those could be (going beyond merely interviewing massage-getters) by sampling hormones and immune system components in the volunteers’ blood.
“Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system. Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.”
Now that the effects can be better sampled and quantified, as made clear by this research, maybe more people will search for and apply effective (e.g. Swedish or light) "alternative and complementary" well-being practices.
All right, now after using all those CAPITAL LETTERS, I need a massage….