Massage Therapy May Boost Immune System Functioning

A growing body of research indicates massage therapy can benefit the immune system, especially important during winter months

People looking to fend off cold and flu as the winter months arrive should speak to a massage therapist about prevention strategies. Regular massages have been shown to make the immune system stronger, according to studies.

“Researchers working with patients with compromised immune systems have found massage therapy can improve how the immune system functions,” said Jeff Smoot, 2015 President of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). “Those same benefits can translate to people seeking to fight off the common cold, flu and other seasonal illnesses.”

Massage therapy increases the activity level of the body’s white blood cells that work to combat viruses. According to research from Cedars-Sinai, participants in a Swedish massage group experienced significant changes in lymphocytes, which play a large role in defending the body from disease. A lymphocyte is one of the three subtypes of white blood cells in the immune system.

Remember, only receive massage therapy when you’re healthy.

What the Research Says

In a controlled study composed of HIV-positive adolescents, participants who received massage therapy showed enhanced immune function by the end of the 12-week study. The immune changes included increased white blood cells knowns as natural killer (NK) cells, which provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells.

An additional randomized study found women with stage 1 and 2 breast cancer may benefit from massage therapy for enhancing dopamine and serotonin while also increasing NK cell number and lymphocytes. Immediate massage benefits included reduced anxiety while the long-term impact increased serotonin values, natural killer cell numbers and lymphocytes, which work to strengthen the immune system and cognitive function during sickness.


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References

1. Mark Hyman Rapaport, Pamela Schettler, and Catherine Bresee. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. October 2010, 16(10): 1079-1088. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0634.
2. Diego, M., Field, T., Hernandez-reif, M., Shaw, K., Friedman, L., & Ironson, G. (2001). Hiv Adolescents Show Improved Immune Function Following Massage Therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 35-45.
3. Hernandezreif, M. (2004). Breast Cancer Patients Have Improved Immune And Neuroendocrine Functions Following Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 45-52.

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