top of page

How does Massage Therapy effect the Immune System?

  • Massage Therapy Strengthens the Immune System.  Regular therapeutic massage sessions provide significant benefits beyond the immediate relaxation we enjoy.  People who experience high levels of stress tend to get sick more than others.  Combine stress with lack of sleep and poor nutrition, and our body’s ability to naturally protect itself against bacteria and infection is greatly reduced. Numerous studies have indicated that massage can increase the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity (the activity level of the body’s natural "killer cells") and decrease the number of T-cells, which improves the body’s immune functioning overall. In one study by Gail Ironson, M.D., HIV positive men were given 45 minute massages five days a week, for a month.  They showed an increase in serotonin and an increase in cells that are viewed as the first line of defense in the immune system.  This is testing a very narrow aspect of the human immune system, but it does lend scientific credibility to a therapy which is widely recognized as therapeutic, based on experience.
  • Strengthen the Immune System Benefits
  • Increases the bodies natural killer cells
  • Aids in the fight against bacteria and infection
  • Enhances the bodies ability to get nourishment to important areas

  • Health Benefits of Massage Therapy
  • Helps Fight Infection—Massage increases the activity of white blood cells that target and destroy infectious agents. With regular massage, the immune system is strengthened rather than stimulated and it becomes more robust.
  • Modulates Immune Function—Massage strengthens the immune system, restoring balance. Massage increases antibody production in immune deficiency and reduces autoantibody production in autoimmune disease.
  • Benefits Autoimmune Diseases—Besides reducing autoantibody production, massage reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are responsible for inflammation and pain.
  • Reduces Pain in Arthritis---Besides reducing production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor alpha, massage increases production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, effectively reducing inflammation and pain.
  • Reduces Depression—Massage increases the production of both endorphins and serotonin. Increased levels of these biochemicals effectively reduce symptoms of depression and contribute to wellbeing.
  • Improved Circulation—By stimulating blood flow to the body’s organs, massage improves circulation. With improved circulation, red blood cells are better able to transport nutrients to the body’s other cells.
  • Stimulation of the Lymphatic System—The lymphatic system is comprised of the thymus gland, tonsils, spleen, adenoids, lymph nodes and lymph fluid as well as lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic vessels carry clear lymph fluid that circulates throughout the body, removing waste products, degenerated cells, and accumulations of fats and proteins. Lymph vessels lie beneath the surface of the skin and are stimulated by massage. This results in improved lymphatic circulation.
  • Physiological Benefits of Massage
  • Improves Natural Killer Cell Function—Numerous studies show that massage increases the cytotoxic function of white blood cells known as natural killer (NK) lymphocytes. This results in improved NK cell function including increased resistance to infection.
  • Decreases Levels of T-Cells—By decreasing T-cell levels, massage helps restore the natural balance between T and B lymphocytes. This improves the immune system’s ability to produce protective antibodies, for instance antibodies that target infectious agents. Alternately, in autoimmune diseases, a decrease in T-cells helps reduce autoantibody production.
  • Increased Endorphin Production—Massage and acupuncture are known to increase production of endorphins and enkephalins. Increased production of these neurotransmitters has a modulating effect on the immune system. Similar to decreased T-cell production, increased endorphins increase the body’s ability to fight infections while improving immune function in autoimmune disease.
  • Reduces Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines—Reduces pain and inflammation
  • Increased Serotonin Levels—by increasing serotonin levels, massage increases feelings of well-being and alleviates symptoms of depression.
bottom of page