The positive effects of massage on your nervous system - Heather Baker

Massage has a greater effect on the body than you may know.  It is most commonly known for it’s positive effects on the muscular system, but did you know that it also directly affects the nervous system?  This in turn has a positive effect on your hormone levels and overall wellbeing.

The effects of massage on the nervous system depend on the direct and reflex reaction of the nerves stimulated. The nervous system can be stimulated or soothed depending on the type of massage movement applied. For your nervous system, massage generally causes a calming, relaxing feeling.

The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal chord nerves, and minute nerve endings.  It works directly with the endocrine system, which regulates all the functions of the entire body by releasing hormones, or chemicals, that produce the desired physical response in our bodies in order to balance and health.

Numerous studies have shown that massage therapy can increase dopamine and serotonin (our happy, feel-good hormones), and lower stress hormones like, cortisol.  Additionally, remedial massage has been shown to produce endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller.

Dopamine-the happy hormone. Many may be aware of the biochemical substance called dopamine, which influences mood in terms of inspiration, joy and enthusiasm. Low levels of dopamine can result in clumsiness, inability to focus and a lack of motor control. Massage increases the available levels of dopamine, explaining the pleasure and satisfaction experienced during and after a massage.

Serotonin-the calming hormone. Serotonin regulates mood in terms of appropriate emotions and has a calming effect, reducing irritability and a number of different cravings. A low serotonin level has been implicated in depression, eating and obsessive compulsive disorders. Massage has been shown to increase the level of available serotonin, producing an overall sense of calm.

Endorphins-the body’s pain reliever. Deep tissue and trigger point therapy (applying pressure to tender muscle tissue to relieve pain and dysfunction) are examples of massage techniques that provide a number of important benefits. These techniques create endorphins, which are compounds known to reduce pain and produce a sense of euphoria. After 15 minutes of massage, endorphins come into play and their "feel good" effects may last up to 48 hours.

Cortisol-fight or flight hormone. Cortisol is a stress hormone used to arouse the senses in the face of danger or opposition. High levels of cortisol have been linked to many stress-related symptoms and illnesses including sleep deprivation, anxiety, inflammation and aggression. Massage has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol, returning the body and mind to a more balanced state. Many people who suffer from anxiety and depression report that massage has an extremely beneficial impact on their state of wellbeing.

These beneficial effects of massage are just a few of the good reasons why it is one of the world’s oldest forms of health care. Not only do people feel better after a massage, it can accelerate and support the recovery from a number of aliments and illnesses. It is only in recent years that science has been able to understand some of the reasons why massage is so beneficial to its recipients, but the stimulation of natural chemicals in our bodies to support our overall sense of physical and mental well being provides a strong case to consider massage as part of your regular body maintenance program.