Relaxation and Immunity: Can Therapeutic Massage Help?

After a massage session, we feel calm and relaxed, probably more serene and blissful than at most other times.  While this is a wonderful experience, in and of itself, the benefits of that heightened sense of calm extend deep into the very cellular mechanisms that comprise one of our body’s most important functions, namely immunity.

Psychologist James Kiecolt Glaser of Ohio State University undertook a study which proved that relaxation can increase the number of helper T-cells.  The outcome proved a statistically significant causal relation between the amount of relaxation-promoting activity  the subjects engaged in weekly, and an increase in immune capacity.  For the study, students were taught self- relaxation techniques.

According to the results, “…these data provide further evidence that relaxation may be able to enhance at least some component of cellular immunity, and thus perhaps ultimately might be useful in influencing the incidence and course of the disease.”

Stress, in all forms, tends to weaken the immune response.  When we consider that stress may come in the form of allergic condition, inflammatory response, poor diet, psychological tension arising from work, family, and other issues, lack of (good quality) sleep, depression, and more, the universal need for stress relief is easily understood.  These various sources of stress all contribute to undermining our vitality and health.

Cortisol and catecholamine levels taper off after a person relaxes.  An individual in a continuously stressed state releases adrenaline, GH, norepinephrine, and other hormones and chemicals (manufactured in the body) that can create a long-term lack of calm.  A sustained tense state only leads to health issues.

It doesn’t seem to matter how one achieves a state of calm.  Whether through meditation or yoga, quiet contemplation or active creativity or sports, we need to find a way to stay relaxed.  The world is dizzyingly faced-paced, and as people of these times, I doubt most of us would want to return to the slumbering pace of our predecessors.  Even so, the weight of living in such world definitely takes its toll.

Meditation, Hatha Yoga, physical exercise, weightlifting, Chi Kung, Tai Chi, and Pranayama (intensive focused breathing exercises) can all help people to feel relaxed, and stay relaxed.  The number of techniques is staggering, as each culture has a traditional means of achieving self-calm, and in contemporary times, many therapists and doctors have likewise devised systems of physical and mental exercises and techniques that seek  to promote calm.  Find a method that is right for you, and fits into your lifestyle, personal philosophy, and faith.

Reading insightful books on the highly inspirational topics of healing, cultivating positivity in one’s life, and spirituality can likewise break up negative tendencies of thought that help promote a stress-prone mental framework.  Explore your faith.  If you’re agnostic or atheist, then dig deep into the rich legacy of human philosophy, spanning the ages from antiquity to modern times.  Find personal meaning in your life.

If faith and philosophy’s not your thing, and you’re more into fishing, then Google fishing, join discussion groups, read magazines and books about fishing, or actually go on a fishing trip.  In other words, whatever you are doing now,  bring a better attitude to it.

Therapeutic massage can be a great adjunct to your plan for becoming calm.  Being worked on always brings a feeling of physical, mental, and even spiritual wellness that leaves an afterglow lasting well beyond the massage session.  If the time is taken to truly work on cultivating calm in one’s life on a daily basis, then we are working in no small way to help our overall health and quality of life.  A strong immune system keeps us well, even with daily exposure to pathogens and environmental  toxins.  Frequent  massage sessions can only help accomplish this worthy goal of attaining a more relaxed state.

©Copyright 2011 H Miller

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Health Care Professional. Educator. Writer. Thinker. Empathic Human Being Helping Others.
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