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Words of Wellness

Boost Your Immune System With Massage

Boost Your Immune System With Massage

Wendy Braun

A soothing massage can do more than help you unwind. Massage is gaining popularity among doctors and their patients as a component of standard care for stress relief, pain, controlling blood pressure, and boosting immunity.

“Consumers are being more pro-active about their health,” says Michele Merhib, certified massage therapist and founder of Elements Therapeutic Massage. “And they are realizing that getting a professional massage—with the right therapist—can help keep their immune system up and running throughout cold and flu season.”

Post editors talked to the massage professional about turning to the relaxing technique for better health.

What does science say about the benefits of massage in besting colds and flu?

Recently, a study at Cedar-Sinai hospital evaluated 59 clients who received a 45-minute massage while connected to a lot of equipment. In the end, they discovered that a single massage resulted in significant biological changes: it decreased the stress hormone cortisol, increased production of lymphocytes (an important facet of the immune system response), and boosted levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with a feeling of contentment.

What do your clients say about the benefits of massage?

Clients notice that regular massage at home or in a studio helps reduce colds and flu and improves overall health. For example, those who typically get a massage every 4th week say they feel sluggish by the end of week 5 if they miss a session. They also report that regular massage helps them sleep better.

Is any one type of massage particularly effective?

Research shows that hands-on bodywork increases circulation and promotes health—whether that touch is light, or deep. What matters most, then, is identifying the pressure that works for your body. If it’s too deep, you won’t enjoy the massage or reap its benefits.

Can you suggest a massage technique to perform at home?

I’ll give you two! One technique massages the hand with the eraser-end of a pencil. The other uses a tennis or golf ball to rub the feet.

For Hands:

  1. Turn palm up. With the eraser of a #2 pencil, apply pressure in a small circular motion at base of the thumb.
  2. Repeat at base of each finger. Continue to work down the lateral, or pinkie-side, of the hand.
  3. Travel twice around each hand.

For Feet: Reflexology teaches that points on the feet connect to the chest and lungs, so this technique may be especially good for avoiding colds and flu.

  1. Sit comfortably on chair or couch and place tennis or golf ball near your feet.
  2. Roll foot over ball, moving back and forth and side to side to cover the entire sole. Repeat with other foot. Apply enough pressure to feel a substantial, but not painful, massage. Ease up just before reaching the “hurts-so-good” threshold. As an alternative, cross the right leg over the left one. With your left hand, roll ball over right foot. Repeat on other side.
  3. Set aside ball. Use hands to massage each toe from base to tip.

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