Give to Get – The Mutual Benefits of Massage

December 21, 2010

We all know the benefits of receiving a massage, less stress, decreased pain, strengthened immune system, and the list goes on, but few people know that massage is mutually beneficial, helping the giver as well. No, giving a massage does not offer exactly the same satisfaction as having warm oil knead away your aches and pains, but it has greater affects than meet the eye.

Dr. Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute in Miami, found that when parents of 20 children with leukemia gave their children a daily massage for one month, not only did the children’s health improve but the parents were less depressed and their white blood cell counts increased. In another study she found that elders who spent three weeks massaging infants had a decrease in stress hormones, less anxiety and depression, began more social activities, and went to the doctor fewer times.

Clearly the benefits of touch are not a one way street. Even petting a dog has been shown to lower blood pressure. People don’t pet their animals to just to give a pet a massage, they do it because it is relaxing and makes them feel good.

Another anomale is known as the “helper’s high”, a term coined by Arthur Brooks, author of “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” Brooks asserts that when we do a charitable act for someone else, our endorphin levels rise, causing feelings of elation in the body. We get these same endorphins when we exercise, but the difference with the “helper’s high” is that simply mentally recalling the kind act, even hours after the fact, can cause another flow of endorphins. About helping others Brooks states, “There’s evidence that it helps people with their asthma, in cardiovascular disease, weight loss, and insomnia.”

By helping a loved one feel better through therapeutic touch, the giver is going to get back a borage of benefits. So next time your partner wants a back rub, you might enjoy knowing that you too are becoming healthier and happier. You can smile to yourself as your white blood cells multiply, your cortisol levels drop, and your partner thinks your are the most generous person in the world.

We even offer massage lessons here at milk + honey as part of our Massage 101 service.

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