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How Does Massage Reduce Stress?

We all know that certain types of constant stress in our lives are not healthy. But did you know that recent
evidence indicates the physical changes associated with stress may contribute to the leading causes of death–
heart disease and cancer. In addition, stress can create and/or exacerbate many physical and emotional
conditions such as chronic fatigue, digestive upset, headaches, back pain, high blood pressure and risk of
A recent study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recruited 53 healthy adults and
assigned them to receive deep tissue, Swedish and light touch massage. Blood samples were taken immediately
before the massage and up to an hour afterward. The researchers found that a single session of massage caused
biological changes.
Volunteers showed significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also had increases in
white blood cells that are part of the immune system. Volunteers experienced greater increases in a hormone
associated with contentment and bigger decreases in adrenal hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to
release cortisol. While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, higher
and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream, such as those associated with chronic stress, have been
shown to have negative effects. What this study shows is that receiving massage actually activates the body
on an internal level to respond and correct the physiological imbalance caused by our stressful lives.

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