New Study Shows Massage Measurably Reduces Stress
- Massage Therapy
- October 9, 2020
- 542 views
- 3 min read
Most massage therapists will be able to tell you in detail about how effective massage therapy is at reducing stress. While the science might have lagged behind the practitioners a little, scientists from the University of Konstanz in Germany have provided measurable proof that massage triggers the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS).
What Is the Parasympathetic Nervous System?
The parasympathetic nervous system is one of three parts of the human autonomic nervous system. Often referred to as the ‘rest and digest system,’ the PSNS controls many of the subconscious processes they body undergoes when it is at rest.
The PSNS works in concert with the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight and flight reaction. The two systems work together to allow the body to react and recover from periods of stress.
The University of Konstanz’s study used three different groups. The first group received 10-minute head-and-neck massages designed to stimulate the PSNS. The second group received a less targeted massage. The third group received no massage.
The scientist measured each group’s heart rate variability (HRV) to determine PSNS activation and how relaxed the participants were.
While experiencing periods of stress, the sympathetic nervous system causes the heart to beat rapidly and steadily. When relaxed, the heart beat is slower and less regular, increasing the HRV. The higher the HRV, the more relaxed the participants reported feeling.
The study found that just 10 minutes of massage activated the body’s parasympathetic nervous system and increased the heart rate variability, leading to a greater feeling of relaxation. Psychologically, all participants who were given massages reported feeling less stressed and more relaxed after the tests.
This study is proof that massage therapy is an essential tool in activating the PSNS and combatting the adverse side effects of stress and its related medical conditions.
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