Inflammation has been a buzzing topic in the health and wellness world lately. And if you’ve looked into it, you’ve probably come across plenty of people talking about ways to fight and lower it. One natural option that you might’ve heard about is massage therapy — but is massage good for inflammation?
Here’s what you should know about massage therapy for inflammation, including what inflammation is, how it works, and what we currently know about massage’s effects.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is often labeled as a “bad” or dangerous thing — and sometimes, it does cause negative health effects. But it’s also a natural part of your body’s healing process. For example, when you have an acute inflammatory response, your body sends white blood cells to fight infections and boost healing.
Beyond that, there’s also long-term (or chronic) inflammation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this can happen when your body continues to send out inflammatory cells, even when there’s no damage or threat. This is the type of inflammation that often plays an underlying role in certain health issues.
How Does Inflammation Show Up in Your Everyday Life?
As mentioned above, acute inflammation is a natural part of your body’s defense system. And if you’ve ever hurt part of your body, then you’ve already seen your acute inflammation response in action.
It can look like:
On the other hand, chronic inflammation has more long-term effects on your health. Signs and symptoms can include:
- Anxiety, depression, and mood disorders
- Chronic fatigue or issues with sleeping
- Digestion complications
- Regular infections
What Causes Chronic Inflammation?
Your diet, exercise routine, and what you put into your body can contribute to your inflammation levels. But aside from that, autoimmune disorders, environment, and other medical conditions can play a role.
Is Massage Good for Inflammation?
So, is massage good for inflammation?
In one small 2012 study involving 11 young men, researchers found small changes in the inflammatory response after a 10-minute massage session. In specific, it appeared to lower levels of some inflammatory cytokines.
These results certainly are interesting. But many people have interpreted this study to mean massage can help inflammation in all situations. And this isn’t necessarily the case.
Because the study was small (and because the body’s inflammatory response is so complex), it doesn’t provide enough context to say whether massage can always lower inflammation.
In fact, some sources point out that massage may activate parts of the inflammatory response. Have you ever felt sore after a massage? According to one article from the Cleveland Clinic, massage can sometimes temporarily increase inflammation, and this may be especially true after a deep massage session.
With that being said, there are some ways that massage can affect things that you might associate with inflammation, such as stress, pain, and tension.
Chronic Stress and Inflammation
Some research has pointed out that there may be a link between chronic stress and inflammation. And if you want to find ways to ease your stress, massage therapy can be a great addition to your routine. That’s because it can support your mental health by boosting your mood and promoting healthy rest.
Pain, Stiffness, and Tension
Achy muscles and stiffness are some things that many people associate with inflammation — but the good news is that massage can help. According to the Mayo Clinic, massage therapy can ease pain, muscle soreness, and tension.
How to Support Healthy Inflammation Levels in the Body
Aside from massage, there are some known ways to help your body stay balanced and reduce chronic inflammation. These include:
- Eating a well-rounded diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Exercising! Exercise boosts your heart health and mental well-being, and it has been shown in some research to lower markers of inflammation.
- Talking to your physician. If you suspect that long-term inflammation is taking a toll on your health, the best thing you can do is talk to a medical professional. They can help you identify the cause. And if need be, they can help you start a treatment plan.
The Bottom Line on Massage Therapy and Inflammation
All in all, the body’s inflammation response is complicated, and how massage affects it isn’t black and white. And until we have more research, it’s hard to say exactly how massage therapy and inflammation interact.
In any case, there are plenty of wellness benefits to be enjoyed from massage — from stress relief to easing soreness, and everything in between. So, if you’re looking for ways to support your overall well-being, regular massage may be worth a try.
To get started with massage in the comfort of your own home, you can try a therapeutic tool like the MedMassager MMB05 body massager.