How Massage Therapy Supports the Immune System

  • Massage Therapy
  • March 12, 2024
  • 4 min read
How Massage Therapy Supports the Immune System

If you’re like most people, you probably think getting a massage is a luxury experience that you should treat yourself to…on occasion. If you’re like me, you may think that getting a massage is a wonderful part of your self-care routine that you wish you were more consistent about following. More than ever, though, the secret is getting out that massage therapy can be so much more than just a tool for relaxation.

Massage therapy can play a significant role in supporting and enhancing the immune system. Instead of thinking that this is a luxury that you will do your best to fit into your busy schedule, you should consider this a preventative medicine technique that can contribute to better overall health in your body. 

Let’s see how this soothing practice can significantly impact your health and wellness.

Enhancing circulation and lymph flow.

One of the most direct ways massage therapy can help boost immune function in your body is by improving the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid. This improved circulation helps better distribute nutrients throughout your body and filter waste products so that they can be excreted through the kidneys.

Regular massage therapy sessions have been shown to boost the number of white blood cells in circulation. This is primarily a result of the Improved circulation described above. Massage therapy can result in increased production of lymphocytes, cells that are vital to the immune system’s defenses against harmful substances. Other white blood cells have also been shown to increase with regular massage.

Several years ago, one study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center documented a substantial increase in white blood cells after a 45-minute massage therapy session. Imagine what regular massage therapy sessions might do if documented over time.

Improved hormonal balance

In addition to improving circulation and boosting immune cells, massage therapy can improve your body’s hormonal profile, better supporting the rest of your immune function.

First, massage therapy reduces the negative impacts of stress on your immune system. It is well documented that stress suppresses your immune system, and massage therapy can reduce cortisol levels (i.e., stress hormones) and thus support your overall immune health.

Massage therapy can also increase the serotonin and dopamine levels circulating in your blood and brain. These two hormones help reduce stress by making you feel happier and more relaxed, reinforcing the effect of decreased cortisol.

Mental health and immunity

In addition to reducing stress on a hormonal level, massage therapy can effectively reduce mental stress, which is closely linked to immune function. A healthy mind promotes a healthy body, and massage can improve mental health. The net effect synergizes with the hormonal impacts described above, contributing to a more robust immune system.

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Precautions and best practices.

It is important to note that while massage therapy can effectively support the optimal function of the immune system, it is considered a complementary therapy and not a replacement for medical treatment. If you are acutely ill, you should consult a healthcare provider about your health condition. 

Massage therapy is not curative on its own. It will only enhance your body’s response to immune challenges that it is already prepared to face, not fix something that requires advanced medical intervention.

It is also important to note that you should observe standard precautions when receiving massage therapy. For example, avoiding massage therapy when experiencing acute illness, such as flu-like symptoms, is always advisable to prevent spreading illness to your Massage Therapist. It will also enhance your own comfort during the treatment.

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Massage therapy is a valuable tool for boosting the immune system. The combination of improved circulation, improved nutrient distribution, waste filtration, reduced stress hormones, and positive impacts on mental stress can be a powerful synergistic force in favor of your improved health. You are incorporating massage therapy into your regular self-care. Routine can be a significant step towards maintaining and supporting a healthy immune system.

Ivy Adams
Massage Therapy Program Chair

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Ivy is a proud graduate of Northwest Career College, class of 1999, and has been a Licensed Massage Therapist ever since. Her eighteen years of experience has taken her through an eclectic array of…Read Full Bio