Can Massages Help Me Cope With Stress?

Dr. Charles Raison answers the question: 'Can Massage Help Me Cope With Stress?'

ByABC News
April 17, 2008, 12:04 PM

— -- Question: Can massages help me cope with stress?

Answer: Massage is also something that can be employed to combat stress. You know, people that get massage regularly know this -- you don't need to hear it from me to believe that. But there's been an emerging scientific literature on massage suggesting that-- or confirming really what many people already know or know and experience, which is massage seems to reduce physiologic stress response. It seems to turn down activity in these stress pathways which are chronically hyperactive in many of us in just trying to cope with the stresses and strains of daily life.

Now, why this should be the case is an interesting scientific question, but we know that humans from earliest times existed in groups where touch was a primary part of how they communicated with each other. And if you look at our closest relatives in the animal kingdom -- chimps and apes and monkeys -- they spend a huge amount of the day grooming each other, you know, picking out the little things from each other's fur. And most scientists feel that a lot of that has to do with soothing each other through touch.

So this is something that's very very ancient in human beings, this need for touch. And touch tells people that their world is safe, that they're part of a caring community. Massage incorporates all that and so it benefits from these hard-wired things in human nature to respond positively to touch.