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How A Massage Can Help Your Body

Updated: Apr 6

Our millions of cells together with the 11 key systems that operate our bodies have one common purpose – to keep us functioning well so we can enjoy a long and happy life.


A body massage can be a powerful thing to do, as it works on every system in your body.

If fueled well and properly cared for, our bodies are astonishing machines that can achieve amazing things – from ‘Hold my beer’ stunts to major feats of endurance – right through to creating a whole new life.


You might be surprised to learn that a good massage has valuable therapeutic effects on those 37 trillion cells of yours and – in particular – on your eleven very busy body systems.


We get it – you probably associate massage purely with pampering and relaxation. However massage positively impacts your health and every inch of your body in a variety of healthy ways.


Let us give you a guided tour.



woman having a facial massage
How a massage helps your skin


How Massage Affects Every System In Your Body

1. How A Massage Affects Your Skin


The integumentary system is your first line of defense from the outside world.


It consists – on average – of 2.2 square meters of skin, it weighs between 3.5 and 5kg and is the largest organ in your body.


It adores a body massage because it improves its condition, texture and tone, helps it to repair, opens its pores to eliminate waste and gets it all exfoliated, moisturised and looking fabulous.


Through the friction and gentle pressure exerted during the massage, the outermost layer of dead skin cells is loosened and sloughed off. This process reveals the fresh, new skin underneath.


Having a good skin care routine, including using a good facial cleanser is also an important part of skin care. Integrating a facial into your massage will ensure that not only your body’s skin is stimulated by the increase in circulation, but also the skin on your face.


Another good treatment to add  into you massage to help your integumentary system is an exfoliation or body scrub. This helps to gently remove dead skin cells, nourish the skin with moisturiser, the gentle nature of the massage during this sort of treatment will also stimulate your lymphatic system and help remove waste from your body.


Added to that, the type of essential oils used in an aromatherapy massage can further help the skin-nourishing benefits of massage. Certain oils, such as lavender and chamomile, have soothing and anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit sensitive or irritated skin.


The massage itself also helps on a deeper level that will then show benefits for your skin. For example massage increases blood circulation and this then increases oxygen and nutrients to the skin, as well as increasing removal of waste products and toxins from that area. Another benefit of massage for skin health is its ability to stimulate the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system plays a crucial role in detoxifying the body and removing waste and toxins. Gentle massage techniques help to activate lymphatic circulation, facilitating the removal of excess fluid and toxins from the tissues. This reduction in fluid retention can diminish puffiness and swelling in the skin, leading to a more toned and sculpted appearance.


As well as these physical benefits, massage can also have psychological effects that can indirectly improve skin health. A relaxation massage reduces stress levels, which in turn can benefit the skin. High levels of stress have been linked to various skin issues, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis. By reducing stress and promoting relaxation, massage helps to minimize these skin problems and promote a clearer, healthier complexion. So as well as being a great pamper session, a massage can really help the health of your skin.


Man having a deep tissue massage
How a massage helps your muscles

2. How Massage Helps The Muscular System

One of the main ways massage helps the muscular system is by increasing relaxation and reducing muscle tension. During a massage, the therapist uses various techniques, such as kneading, stroking, and stretching, to release tight muscles and reduce tension. This helps to improve blood circulation to the muscles, allowing for the removal of metabolic waste products and toxins that can contribute to muscle soreness and stiffness. Different massage techniques affect the muscular system indifferent ways. For example, Swedish massage uses long, flowing strokes to relax muscles and improve circulation, making it ideal for general relaxation and reduction in stress. Deep tissue massage, on the other hand, targets deeper layers of muscle tissue to address chronic tension and adhesions,


For example, right now you are probably sitting on the gluteus maximus and it is one of your muscular system’s most valuable player.


The gluteus maximus muscles are the largest in your body and they join approximately 650 other muscles in giving you strength, agility, stability and good posture. It controls your lower body movement and also balance. When these muscles are tight or out of alignment they can affect every other part of your body. For example, massaging the gluteus maximus and piriformas muscles can decrease pressure on the sciatic nerve. This can help relieve sciatica and pain the legs and lower back.


Massage therapy can also reduce muscle soreness and help the recovery process after strenuous exercise or physical activity. Intense workouts can cause micro-tears in the muscle fibers, leading to muscle soreness and inflammation. Remedial massage helps to increase blood flow to the affected muscles, delivering essential nutrients and oxygen that promote faster healing and repair. When we massage, we stimulate your circulatory system which in turn enhances cell activity. It also helps to reduce the thickening of connective tissue and decreases fibrous adhesion caused by muscle tissue injuries.


Massage also helps to increase the flexibility and range of motion of muscles and joints. By applying gentle pressure and stretching techniques, massage can help to lengthen muscle fibers, break up adhesions, and improve joint mobility. This can be especially beneficial for athletes and individuals with tight or restricted muscles, as it can help prevent injuries and enhance athletic performance.




3. Massage And The Skeletal System


Regular body massage therapy can help your bones greatly – from improving stiff joints and reducing inflammation, to improving body alignment and lessening soreness and fatigue. For example, as we age, our joints can become stiff and less mobile, which can hurt and reduce our mobility. Massage techniques such as joint mobilization, stretching, and gentle manipulation can help loosen tight muscles and connective tissues surrounding the joints, allowing us to become more flexible.


Massage also helps our posture, which is essential for the health of the skeletal system. Poor posture can place excessive strain on the joints and contribute to musculoskeletal imbalances and pain. With massage helping your muscle alignment, it can reduce the risk of developing chronic pan conditions and joint problems.


Remarkably, massage can also help with arthritis, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. Arthritis, characterized by inflammation of the joints, can cause stiffness, swelling, and pain. Massage therapy can help reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and alleviate muscle tension, providing relief from arthritis symptoms and improving overall joint function.


Massage can also help with bone density, which is essential for preventing osteoporosis and reducing the risk of fractures. Research has shown that massage can stimulate the production of osteoblasts, cells responsible for bone formation, and reduce the activity of osteoclasts, cells responsible for bone resorption. By promoting bone remodeling and regeneration, massage therapy can help maintain bone density and strength, especially in individuals at risk for osteoporosis.


It can also help in the rehabilitation process following skeletal injuries, such as fractures or joint dislocations. By increasing blood flow to the injured area, massage promotes healing and reduces recovery time. Massage techniques can also help reduce scar tissue formation, improve flexibility, and prevent muscle atrophy during the healing process, allowing individuals to regain function and mobility more quickly.


Different massage techniques may offer specific benefits for the skeletal system. For example, deep tissue massage can help release tension in muscles and connective tissues surrounding the joints, providing relief from stiffness and improving mobility. Myofascial release techniques target the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds and supports the muscles and joints, helping to improve flexibility and reduce pain.



4. How Massage Increases Blood Circulation


Your heart pumps 5.5 litres of blood per minute and beats 100,000 times a day. And your blood circulates about 19,000km per day – that’s like traveling between Brisbane and Sydney over 9 times every day. 


Massage impacts the circulatory system by increasing blood flow and oxygen supply – oxygen as you know – is a pretty crucial part of most processes in your body. One of the main ways massage increases blood circulation is by dilating blood vessels and improving vascular function. A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago explored the effects of massage therapy on blood flow velocity and diameter of the brachial artery. The researchers found that a single session of massage significantly increased blood flow velocity and artery diameter in healthy adults. This showed that massage promotes vasodilation, allowing more blood to flow through the arteries and reach the tissues, which can improve oxygen and nutrient delivery to cells.


Added to this, massage has been shown to stimulate the lymphatic system, which plays a crucial role in immune function and waste removal. A study conducted at the University of Miami School of Medicine investigated the effects of massage on lymphatic circulation in breast cancer survivors with lymphedema, a condition characterized by swelling due to impaired lymphatic drainage. The researchers found that manual lymphatic drainage massage significantly increased lymph flow and reduced limb circumference in participants with lymphedema. This suggests that massage can improve lymphatic circulation, helping to reduce swelling and promote the removal of toxins and metabolic waste products from the body.


Further, research conducted at McMaster University in Canada examined the effects of massage therapy on blood flow to skeletal muscles during exercise recovery. The study found that massage increased blood flow to the muscles, leading to faster removal of lactate, a byproduct of muscle metabolism that contributes to fatigue and soreness. This indicates that massage can enhance muscle recovery by improving blood circulation and facilitating the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissues.


Another study, conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago, looked at the effects of massage therapy on chronic low back pain. The researchers found that massage increased blood flow to the affected area, reducing pain and improving functional mobility in participants with chronic low back pain. This suggests that massage can alleviate pain by promoting blood circulation and reducing inflammation in injured or painful tissues.


Finally, a study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), examined the effects of massage therapy on individuals with hypertension, a condition characterized by high blood pressure. The researchers found that regular massage sessions reduced blood pressure levels and improved vascular function in participants with hypertension. This indicates that massage can have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health by promoting vasodilation and reducing arterial stiffness.


Wow and I just thought massage just felt good!


5. How Massage Impacts The Nervous System

The nervous system is the boss. It’s in control. It starts in the brain, scurries down the spinal cord and onward through a spaghetti-fest of nerves.


During a massage your nervous system decreases your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure.

While you are in this more relaxed state, massage begins to stimulate your senses. Soon, happy endorphins are released. Massage helps regulate the autonomic nervous system, reduce stress hormone levels, and promotes relaxation.


One of the main ways massage helps the nervous system is by reducing sympathetic nervous system activity and promoting parasympathetic dominance. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body's "fight or flight" response, which is activated in times of stress or danger. If this is activated for a long period of tem, it can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and various health problems. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system governs the body's "rest and digest" response, promoting relaxation and recovery. Research conducted at the University of Miami School of Medicine investigated the effects of massage therapy on autonomic nervous system activity in healthy adults. The study found that massage increased parasympathetic activity and decreased sympathetic activity, leading to reduced heart rate and blood pressure. This suggests that massage promotes relaxation by shifting the balance toward parasympathetic dominance.


Amazingly, massage can also reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. A study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), examined the effects of massage on cortisol levels in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. The researchers found that massage significantly decreased cortisol levels and increased serotonin and dopamine levels, leading to reduced anxiety and improved mood. Similarly, a study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago investigated the effects of massage therapy on stress hormone levels in pregnant women. The researchers found that massage reduced cortisol levels and decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression in pregnant women, suggesting that massage can alleviate stress and improve mental health.


But that's not all. It can regulate activity of the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Research conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine examined the effects of massage on brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The study found that massage increased activity in brain regions associated with relaxation and decreased activity in areas associated with stress and pain processing. This suggests that massage can influence neural pathways involved in stress modulation and pain perception, leading to improved well-being and pain relief.


Plus it can help increase the number of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins, which are known to promote feelings of happiness and well-being. A study conducted at the University of Miami School of Medicine investigated the effects of massage on neurotransmitter levels in individuals with depression. The researchers found that massage increased serotonin and endorphin levels, leading to reduced symptoms of depression and improved mood. This suggests that massage can have antidepressant effects by modulating neurotransmitter activity in the brain.


All of this put together shows why massage is so powerful in making you feel good. It is critical in how we apply therapeutic massage and also in how we do our trauma informed massages. But even for our regular clients, those who are stressed or just wanting to enjoy some time out, massage is hugely powerful on a physiological level in making you feel happier.


6. What Is Lymphatic Massage?


Remember that scene in Disney’s Fantasia where Mickey Mouse is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice? He instructs brooms to carry water-filled buckets from A to B and it basically ends in chaos, well, the lymphatic system is like that – minus the chaos and minus the buckets. Oh and minus Mickey Mouse too.


In essence the Lymphatic System transports and balances your fluids and helps ward off all manner of poxes and diseases.


A detox massage or lymphatic massage helps this system by reducing swelling and helps with the elimination of waste. Think of it as the system that takes out the garbage. Lymphatic massage is a gentle style of massage, it works just under the surface of the skin, and reduces swelling, improves immune function, and enhances overall well-being.


One of the main things it does is reduce swelling and edema by elping lymphatic drainage. The lymphatic system controls fluid balance and immune function, but it can become overwhelmed or impaired due to factors such as surgery, injury, or illness. As mentioned before, studies have found lymphatic massage significantly reduced limb circumference and improved symptoms of lymphedema, indicating that it can effectively alleviate swelling and edema in breast cancer survivors.


Massage also helps lymphocyte activity. A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago investigated the effects of manual lymphatic drainage massage on immune function in healthy adults. The researchers found that massage increased lymphocyte count and activity, suggesting that it can enhance the body's ability to defend against infections and illnesses. Massage significantly increased natural killer cell activity and improved immune function in participants receiving radiation therapy, indicating that it can offset the immunosuppressive effects of cancer treatment.


Added to this, lymphatic massage can help fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. A study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined the effects of manual lymphatic drainage massage on pain, fatigue, and quality of life in individuals with fibromyalgia. The researchers found that massage significantly reduced pain and fatigue and improved quality of life in participants with fibromyalgia, suggesting that it can be an effective complementary therapy for managing symptoms of chronic pain conditions.


And even more, lymphatic massage can support detoxification and improve skin health by promoting the removal of toxins and metabolic waste products from the body. A study conducted at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany investigated the effects of manual lymphatic drainage massage on skin blood flow and oxygenation. The researchers found that massage increased skin blood flow and oxygenation, suggesting that it can enhance skin health and promote detoxification by improving circulation and lymphatic drainage.


Our detox massage can be done lymphatic style, and we support this style of massage with the essential oils we use and by adding in a gentle exfoliation that further stimulates the lymphatic system.






7. How Massage Helps The Respiratory System

You take over 23,000 breaths every day and your respiratory system – headquartered in your lungs – works by getting the oxygen your breathe straight into your blood. A relaxing massage lowers your respiratory rate and works on your diaphragm muscles to deepen and improve your breathing pattern and release tension held in your chest.


Plus it can also help your respiratory system on a deeper level, from from improving lung function to alleviating respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Yes, a massage can help you breathe better. Don't believe me? We have the receipts.


One of the main ways massage helps the respiratory system is by promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels, which can have a direct impact on breathing patterns. The University of Miami School of Medicine found massage therapy can help those with asthma. The study found that massage significantly improved pulmonary function tests, including forced expiratory volume (FEV1) and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), suggesting that massage can enhance lung function and respiratory efficiency in individuals with asthma.


It can also help with COPD. A study conducted at the University of Kentucky examined the effects of massage therapy on dyspnea (shortness of breath) and respiratory function in patients with COPD. The researchers found that massage significantly reduced dyspnea scores and improved respiratory function, leading to improved quality of life and functional capacity in participants with COPD.


We also use massage to clear mucus in clients with respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis or chronic bronchitis. A study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), investigated the effects of massage therapy on mucus clearance in patients with cystic fibrosis. The researchers found that massage significantly increased sputum production and improved mucus clearance.


Massage can also relax respiratory muscles and improve breathing mechanics, leading to more efficient breathing patterns. Research conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago examined the effects of massage therapy on respiratory muscle strength and function in healthy adults. The study found that massage significantly increased respiratory muscle strength and endurance, suggesting that it can enhance respiratory muscle function and improve breathing efficiency.


So, sometimes our clients get off the table and comment they feel they can breathe easier. This may be why.


8. How Massage Boosts Your Endocrine System


“The endocrine system is like an immensely powerful dictatorship, issuing sweeping edicts that all must obey,” so says the Professor of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna, Tecumseh Fitch. And it’s a perfect analogy.


The endocrine system is comprised of glands that produce and emit hormones into your bloodstream.

These little hormone minions regulate a myriad of functions from your mood and libido to your thyroid function. Massage helps the endocrine system primarily by reducing the stress and tension in you which in turn helps balance your mood. Here are the top ways that massage helps your hormonal system


  • Reducing Stress: One of the main ways massage boosts the endocrine system is by reducing stress levels. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, the body's primary stress hormone, which can upset the balance of other hormones in the body. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce cortisol levels while increasing endorphins, which are natural mood regulators and pain relievers. Research has demonstrated that regular massage sessions can lead to significant reductions in stress and anxiety, promoting a more balanced hormonal environment, and a happier brain.

  • Hormone Regulation: Massage therapy can help balance hormone production by stimulating the endocrine glands responsible for hormone secretion. For example, massage techniques such as acupressure and reflexology target specific pressure points on the body that correspond to various endocrine glands, such as the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, and adrenal glands. By pushing on these points, massage therapists can help increase hormone production and bring about hormonal balance. Ahhh, balance, ahhh.

  • Increased Circulation: Massage helps circulation through the body, which is essential for the transport of hormones and nutrients to various tissues and organs. Improved blood flow to the endocrine glands makes sure that they receive enough oxygen and nutrients, which is necessary for the best levels of hormone production and function. Added to this, increased circulation helps remove metabolic waste products and toxins from the body, adding to endocrine health.

  • Better Sleep: Sleep is underatd. Getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining healthy hormone levels and overall endocrine function. Massage has been shown to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality by reducing stress and anxiety levels. Studies have found that regular massage sessions can lead to better sleep patterns, including increased duration and improved sleep efficiency. Restorative sleep is essential for the regulation of hormones such as growth hormone, melatonin, and cortisol, all of which play a role in maintaining health and vitality. Yep, your massage therapist can help you sleep better.

  • Managing Chronic Pain : Chronic pain can really mess with endocrine function and upset hormonal imbalances. Massage offers a natural path to pain management, reducing muscle tension, inflammation, and discomfort. By alleviating pain, massage therapy helps reduce stress on the body and promotes a more balanced hormonal response. This can lead to improvements in overall endocrine function and well-being.

  • Making you happy : Massage has been shown to boost mood and emotional well-being by increasing the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. These "feel-good" neurotransmitters play a role in regulating mood, appetite, and stress response. By promoting a positive emotional state, massage therapy can help reduce stress hormone levels and support overall endocrine health.

Woman holding her stomach
Massage helps your digestion


9. Massage And Digestion


The digestive system has only two tasks. Number One: process your food. Number Two: remove the waste.

A great massage therapist helps to relieve pressure in the abdominal and intestinal muscles which eases constipation and helps with waste elimination. They do this with clockwise circular massage of the stomach that helps your digestive tract and to move food and waste through your colon. Liver and kidney activity are also stimulated by massage and this helps to filter and process waste.


Here are the many ways a massage helps you digest food, who knew?


  1. Your muscles relax: Massage can help reduce tension in the abdominal muscles, which can become tight and constricted due to stress, poor posture, or digestive issues. By applying gentle pressure and kneading motions to the abdomen, massage therapists can help relax the muscles surrounding the digestive organs, allowing for improved movement and function.

  2. Peristalsis: Peristalsis is the rhythmic contractions of the muscles in the digestive tract that propel food and waste through the gastrointestinal system. Massage can stimulate peristalsis by applying gentle pressure and circular clockwise motions to the abdomen. This can help alleviate constipation and promote regular bowel movements by facilitating the movement of stool through the intestines.

  3. Reduces Bloating and Gas: Yes, massage can help reduce the amount you fart. It can help reduce bloating and gas by releasing trapped air and promoting the movement of gas through the digestive system. Added into this, massage can help stimulate the release of digestive enzymes and gastric juices, which can aid in the breakdown and absorption of nutrients.

  4. Reduce Digestive Disorders: Massage can help people with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Research has shown that massage therapy can help reduce symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. By incrasing relaxation, reducing stress, and improving circulation to the digestive organs, massage therapy can provide relief from symptoms and improve overall quality of life for individuals with digestive disorders.

  5. Supports the Parasympathetic Nervous System: It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the "rest and digest" response in the body. By increasing relaxation and reducing stress levels, massage therapy helps shift the body into a state conducive to optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. This can lead to improved digestive function and a reduction in digestive symptoms such as indigestion and heartburn.

  6. Aids Lymphatic Drainage: The lymphatic system plays a crucial role in removing waste products and toxins from the body, including the digestive system. Massage can help enhance lymphatic drainage by stimulating the flow of lymph fluid through the lymphatic vessels. This can help remove excess fluid and toxins from the digestive organs, promoting detoxification and improving overall digestive health.

10. How Massage Affects The Urinary System


This system’s task is to make urine and expel it. Sounds easy enough but it’s a tough gig.


Every day we lose approximately 2 litres of urine and in a lifetime, our kidneys will clean over one million gallons of water – that’s enough to fill a small lake.


A body massage manipulates the fluids in the muscles – fluids that are then pushed into the lymphatic system. The fluid is filtered, it fills your bladder and you need to go to the bathroom again.


Massage increases urinary output, reduces fluid retention and increases the efficiency of your liver and kidneys. This explains why your massage therapists will advise you to drink a couple of extra glasses of water after a massage – to better flush the built-up waste from your body.


Here are the specifics on how massage helps you pee


  1. It reduces fluid retention via promoting lymphatic drainage and circulation. While research specifically focused on the urinary system is limited, studies have demonstrated that massage can effectively reduce edema in various parts of the body. For example, a study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that manual lymphatic drainage massage significantly reduced edema in patients with lower limb lymphedema. By promoting the removal of excess fluid from tissues, massage therapy can alleviate swelling and fluid retention in the urinary system, supporting kidney function and urinary health.

  2. Stress Reduction: Chronic stress can negatively impact urinary function by increasing the risk of urinary problems such as overactive bladder and urinary incontinence. Massage has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation, which can have indirect benefits for the urinary system. Research conducted at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that massage therapy significantly reduced stress hormone levels and increased parasympathetic nervous system activity in patients with generalized anxiety disorder. By reducing stress and promoting a state of relaxation, massage therapy can help alleviate symptoms of urinary dysfunction and support overall urinary health.

  3. Improved Circulation to the Kidneys: Massage can enhance blood circulation to the kidneys, which play a crucial role in filtering waste products and regulating fluid balance in the body. While direct studies on the effects of massage on kidney circulation are limited, research has shown that massage can increase blood flow to various parts of the body. For example, a study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that massage therapy increased blood flow velocity in the femoral artery in healthy adults. By improving circulation to the kidneys, massage therapy may support kidney function and overall urinary health.

  4. Pain Management: Massage therapy can help alleviate pain associated with urinary conditions such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or kidney stones. While research specifically focused on urinary pain is limited, studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of massage therapy for pain management in general. For example, a meta-analysis published in the journal Pain Medicine found that massage therapy significantly reduced pain intensity in patients with various chronic pain conditions. By reducing pain and discomfort, massage therapy can improve quality of life for individuals with urinary problems and support overall urinary health.


A  good therapeutic massage promotes relaxation, reduces your blood pressure and provides you with a feeling of overall wellness.


Ultimately, body massage is a deeply satisfying and bliss-inducing practice – no question there.


What you may not have appreciated – until now – is that massage also provides many health benefits that help your body function, play, rest, relax and – very importantly – to heal too.




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