MASSAGE BIOCHEMISTRY 101
How Can Massage Therapy Help Us Feel Good and Get Better?
Biochemistry helps to explain several benefits of massage. By rebalancing concentrations of two key neurotransmitters and an anti-inflammatory, massage therapy can restore some calm, clarity and balance to our experience of ourselves…to the textures of life itself.
It’s win-win: feeling good, getting better.
Massage raises levels of “activating neurotransmitters
(serotonin and dopamine)” by about 30%. (1)
Dopamine transmits signals across nerve synapses in the brain,
where it serves an essential function in reward motivated behavior. (3)
It's also a key chemical messenger in the body’s autonomic
nervous and endocrine systems.
Serotonin plays various important roles throughout
the body, but it really gets our attention because it
modulates aspects of mood and memory.
Massage reduces levels of the steroid, cortisol, by around 30%. (1)
Cortisol is the ‘heavy’ in our story. This steroid lowers tissue inflam- mation brought on by physical insult and stress—and that's good.
However concentrations of cortisol that remain persistently above
normal are cumulatively damaging. Chronic stress and the body’s
efforts to control it (allostatic load) can contribute to death of neurons in the hippocampus and to “depression, apathy, and cognitive decline.” (2) Over time elevated cortisol levels also impair our immune systems.
A nasty stew: Chronic stress feeds inflammation, which (via interactive
pathways) feeds (and feeds on) depression, sleep difficulties, and weight problems. These are the findings of a recent study that calls for diagnostic
and treatment protocols to take account of such interactions. (4)
So please consider the benefits of a massage program that can ease
your aches, help heal your traps, buoy your spirits, calm your nerves,
and reduce your exposure to serious threats from allostatic (over)load.
Expect a pop quiz part way through your third massage.