Recent Research on Massage and the Immune System

“While the relaxation benefits of massage have been known for decades, new studies are showing that its effects go much deeper,” said Paula Curtiss, Founding Director for Healing Hands School of Holistic Health.   “In fact, studies at both Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of Los Angeles, and Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine support the same conclusion: the immune system can be effectively strengthened by massage from as little as one session!   This is great news for the massage industry, as it demonstrates its essential role in any rehabilitative or wellness program”, she added.

One study refer was conducted at Cedars-Sinai and measured a substantial increase in the number of white blood cells in subjects who received just one forty-five-minute massage.  White blood cells play an important part in defending the body from disease. Massage positively impacted hormone levels also; reducing the stress hormone Cortisol and increasing ‘good hormones’ Serotonin and Dopamine.  Massage also lowered levels of ‘cytokines’ which contshutterstock_42359824ribute to inflammation.  Chronic inflammation breeds a wide range of ills including cardiovascular disease, depression, and conditions like asthma and arthritis.

Another study by Touch Research Institute on female patients with Fibromyalgia found similar evidence of a boost to the immune system. In that study, subjects reported lower anxiety and depression, which was supported by lowered Cortisol levels immediately following their therapy sessions.

A third study involving HIV+ gay men who received massage regularly for 1 month further supported the conclusion.  At the end of the month, all men reported feeling more relaxed with a reduction in anxiety levels.  Their blood work also revealed a substantial decrease in the stress hormone, Cortisol.  Once again, these benefits correlated with an increase in white blood cells and enhanced immune function.

Today, many of the acute and chronic conditions we experience are stress-induced, which is why massage therapy makes such a positive impact.  More and more studies are showing it not only relieves stress but can reverse its deteriorating effects on the body as well. Below is a partial list of some additional benefits found by other massage studies conducted by TRI:

  •  reducing depressive symptoms
  • diminishing pain
  • lowering stress hormones
  • alleviating insomnia
  • increasing attentiveness/clarity
  • weight gain in pre-term infants
  • shorter labors and less post-partum depression in pregnant women
  • reducing high blood pressure

shutterstock_131745701To find out more about the study of massage and its application in science and medicine, visit Touch Research Institute online or Cedars-Sinai research.

To learn more about the 80+ massage therapy and holistic health classes offered at Healing Hands School of Holistic Health, visit us online at or call us at (760) 746.9374 in Escondido, or at (949) 305-2722 in Laguna Hills


(Cit: Ironson, G., Field, T.M., Scafidi, F., Hashimoto, M., Kumar, M., Kumar, A., Price, A., Goncalves, A., Burman, I. , Tetenman, C., Patarca, R. & Fletcher, M.A. (1996). Massage therapy is associated with enhancement of the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity. International Journal of Neuroscience, 84, 205-21

(Cit: Sunshine, W., Field, T.M., Quintino, O., Fierro, K., Kuhn, C., Burman, I. & Schanberg, S. (1996). Fibromyalgia benefits from massage therapy and transcutaneous electrical stimulation. Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 2, 18-22.)