Massage: More Than Meets the Muscle

by Melaina Juntti

We all love a good rubdown. But beyond easing muscle tension and relieving sore spots, massage—even a single session—triggers beneficial biological changes, finds new research from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. After receiving a 45-minute deep-tissue massage, subjects’ levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the cortisol-spiking hormone arginine-vasopressin decreased, while their numbers of lymphocytes—white blood cells tied to immune function—shot up. Meanwhile, other participants enjoyed a light-touch massage, which spiked oxytocin, the hormone that sparks feelings of contentment, warmth, and relaxation. Researchers hope to apply these results, if corroborated by further studies, to the management of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.