Hormonal ups and downs can wreak havoc on your life. They can affect your mood, your weight, your food cravings, even your desire for sex. For many women, hormones balance normally and it’s smooth sailing–but for others, any imbalance can be a train wreck. And guys, you’re not immune either, recent research suggests your hormonal imbalances can be just as crazy.
Enter massage therapy. Among the many benefits of massage therapy are those related to the body’s production and regulation of neurohormones. Neurohormones are produced by the nervous system and affect an individual’s behavior and general well-being. Recent studies have solidly concluded that massage can help balance mood levels by moving your body toward homeostasis (a naturally balanced state). And the story’s even better! Research conducted at the TOUCH Research Institute at the University of Miami suggests that massage increases the availability of all neurohormones affecting brain chemistry.
Massage tends to elevate the levels of dopamine, a neurohormone released by the hypothalamus gland. Dopamine influences fine motor activity like painting, playing a musical instrument or navigating with a mouse. It affects intuition, inspiration, joy, and enthusiasm. If your dopamine fall, you will likely exhibit clumsiness, poor focus, and be easily distracted.
Massage can also raise the availability of serotonin, a neurohormone that regulates behavior in terms of emotions, acting to quell irritability and cravings for sex and food. Those low in serotonin often have difficulty sleeping and tend to suffer from depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders, not to mention lower sex drive and overall irritabiltiy.
Research shows that even a short 15 minute seated massage can elevate epinephrine(adrenaline) levels by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. This can increase a person’s alertness. A slower, longer, deeper, and more rhythmic massage can, on the other hand, reduce epinephrine levels, creating a feeling of relaxation, and facilitating deep sleep.
Acupressure and trigger point therapy (applying pressure to tender muscle tissue to relieve pain and dysfunction) are further examples of massage techniques that provide a number of important benefits. These techniques create endorphins, which are compounds known to reduce pain and produce a sense of euphoria.
Oxytocin, another neurohormone, supports feelings of attachment and can help during pregnancy, birthing, and lactation. Massage therapy has also been shown to reduce levels of Cortisol — the stress related neurohormone produced by the adrenal glands. Finally, by encouraging sleep, massage can increase the availability of growth hormones which promote cell division, and is involved in tissue repair, regeneration, and healing.
And, of course, men have hormones too. And theirs can be just as volatile. Regular Swedish or Sports massage can help balance their hormone levels and bring much needed balanced relief for sore muscles or stress.
So overall, it’s a win-win situation, no matter who you are. You get balanced hormones and an overall sense of well-being and relaxation, and the people around you get a break. Nice!