Monday, March 14, 2011

Massage Therapy Is Good For Your Brain!

“Everything you have ever experienced felt or conducted in life is due to brain function. The ability to enjoy, perceive, sense, and experience life is dictated by the firing rate and health of your brain. It is impossible for a person to become healthy mentally or physiologically without a healthy brain.” ~ Datis Kharrazian, D.C., D.H.Sc., M.S.

Once considered a luxury, massage therapy has proven to be a beneficial modality for proper brain function and long- term overall health. Therapeutic massage has far reaching benefits, from bolstering sleep, mood and the immune system, to improving serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. Studies show that:

Massage therapy, specifically back massage, promotes social and psychological behavior as well as bolsters the immune system: “Massage therapy promotes psychosocial relaxation, reduces stress and has been reported to improve the immune function. As such, massage therapy is currently used in palliative care for the relief of anxiety and pain.” ~J. Anesth. 2010 Dec;24(6):955-8. Epub 2010 Aug 5.

Massage therapy can help you sleep:
“It's necessary to give foot reflexology massage as a successful nursing intervention to elderly who undergo a change in sleep, and suffer from a depression disorder due to deterioration in sleep.” Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2006 Feb;36(1):15-24.

Massage therapy can improve your brain chemistry: Decreased levels of cortisol and increased levels of serotonin and dopamine were reported in a study by Touch Research Institute on massage therapy and biochemistry

According to an abstract from the International Journal of Neuroscience, the Institute’s studies included those on depression, including sex abuse and eating disorder studies, pain syndrome studies, research on auto-immune conditions including asthma and chronic fatigue, immune studies (including HIV and breast cancer), and studies on the reduction of stress on the job, during pregnancy, and aging.

In those studies in which cortisol was assayed either in saliva or in urine, significant decreases, averaging 31%, were noted in cortisol levels. This is beneficial to overall health as high and prolonged levels of cortisol have been shown to have negative health effects, including thyroid dysfunction, and higher blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.

In studies in which serotonin and dopamine, the activating neurotransmitters responsible for emotional control, were assayed in urine, an average increase of 28% and 31% was noted respectively. “These studies combined suggest the stress-alleviating effects (decreased cortisol) and the activating effects (increased serotonin and dopamine) of massage therapy on a variety of medical conditions and stressful experiences.” Int J Neurosci. 2005 Oct;115(10):1397-413.

Massage therapy can make you happier: The frontal lobes are where we experience happy, empathetic, joyous, and compassionate emotions. They help to regulate or gate the emotional, aggressive parts of our limbic system or “emotional brain.”

According to a 2002 study by the Touch Research Institute, “The increasing incidence of violence among children and adolescents highlights the importance of identifying at-risk profiles as well as assessing interventions for preventing violence. Empirical research has suggested behavioral, central nervous system, and neurotransmitter/neurohormone dysregulation in violent individuals, including (1) an underaroused central nervous system characterized by right frontal electroencephalogram (EEG) hypoactivation, and (2) a neurotransmitter/neurohormone profile of lower norepinephrine, serotonin, and cortisol, and elevated dopamine and testosterone. The literature also suggests a disproportionate incidence of physical abuse and neglect or the lack of positive physical contact in violent individuals.”

“In the studies we have conducted to date, there has been a relatively high incidence of anger and aggression in high school samples, even those that were relatively advantaged, as well as high levels of depression (one standard deviation above the mean), suggesting significant disturbance in these youth. Adolescents with these profiles also had less optimal relationships with their families, used illicit drugs more frequently, had inferior academic performance, and had higher depression scores. In our cross-cultural comparisons, preschoolers and adolescents were less physically affectionate and more aggressive in the United States versus France. Further, the U.S. youth received less physical affection as preschoolers, and as adolescents they engaged in more self-stimulating behaviors, perhaps to compensate for receiving less physical affection from their parents and peers. This supports the notion that less physical affection (or more physical neglect) can contribute to greater aggression.”

“Massage therapy has been effective with violent adolescents, perhaps because the physical stimulation reduced their dopamine levels and increased their serotonin levels. Their aggressive behavior decreased and their empathetic behavior increased. These preliminary data need to be replicated in a larger sample with a more comprehensive set of measures in the context of identifying a diagnostic profile.” Adolescence. 2002 Winter;37(148):735-49.

Massage is a wonderful therapeutic modality that should no longer be viewed as an indulgence, but essential for proper brain function and overall wellness. Call us at 631.265.1223 to learn more about how massage therapy can help optimize your health.

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