It’s the holiday season, and we all know what that means- it’s also cold/flu season. To a certain extent we all know the basics of illness prevention. Wash your hands, disinfect everything, stay home when you’re sick. But sometimes it seems that is not enough.
What else can we do to prevent illness? Keeping our immune system in top shape is the key.
A strong, healthy immune system puts us on the offensive against bacteria and disease, giving us a better chance of not getting sick in the first place. Prevention is better than cure! Eating well and exercising regularly are known to improve overall health. What else improves overall health? Massage! (You knew I was getting there eventually)
This article by LiveScience cites many reasons why massage can have a positive impact on your immune system. In the study mentioned, 29 participants received a 45 minute identical massage sessions - meaning the therapists used the exact same pressure, techniques and routine on each person. Blood samples taken before and after treatment showed an increase in white blood cells, which are the main line of defense against disease. This result is seen after just ONE massage!
Massage is also known to decrease inflammation. Why is this important? If a part of your body is experiencing inflammation, your body naturally responds by sending cells to the area to protect and heal. Now what happens if you’re exposed to a virus or bacteria? Your body needs to fight that, too. The result is an overworked immune system that cannot efficiently do its job. Eliminating or, at the very least, decreasing inflammation with massage will help your body be more prepared to fight during those vulnerable winter months.
As one last example of the incredible effect massage can have on the immune system; This article not only explores several benefits of massage, but the one mentioned of particular relevance to our subject shows that HIV-positive adolescents had a significant increase in immune system health and cellular production after receiving one month of regular weekly massage! It also increased natural killer cells in women with breast cancer.
If massage can have such a positive effect on complicated diseases like HIV and cancer, imagine what it can do if we are simply trying to prevent a cold?
Regular massage with moderate pressure is the key. You don’t have to get one every week, like in the studies. Unless you already have a compromised immune system, a massage once every 3-4 weeks should be sufficient. Keep in mind that you should never receive a massage if you are already sick. Not only could you pass it to your therapist and their other clients, but a fever is actually a contraindication for massage and your therapist will most likely turn you away if you have one. I’ll return to what I said above- prevention is better than cure! Begin your regular sessions BEFORE getting sick to prevent it in the first place.
Boost your immune system, take the necessary precautions- and make sure this season the only thing you’re receiving from your family is a sentimental gift- NOT the flu!