Stress, Cortisol, Endorphins, and Massage (July 2011)

New studies are showing a strong connection between chronic stress and chronic ailments and illness. Much of this is related to cortisol and endorphins. Massage therapy has been shown to decrease cortisol while increasing serotonin and dopamine.

Stress on the body big or small releases a hormone called cortisol.  This hormone is involved in the proper functioning of glucose metabolism, blood pressure, immune reaction, and inflammation response.  When it is released in elevated quantities over prolonged periods of time (as it often is in our current fast-paced culture instead of in short bursts) it is linked to many of the chronic diseases prevalent in the United States. Mayo Clinic suggests it may be linked to: heart disease, sleep problems, digestive problems, depression, obesity, memory impairment, and skin conditions. 

  During a massage endorphins are released into the bloodstream. Endorphins are neurotransmitters which interact with opiate receptors (yes, similar in type to morphine, but not addictive). Among other things, endorphins decrease pain sensations, increase feelings of well-being, and enhance immune response. Perhaps this is why major health institutions like the Mayo Clinic are offering massage in conjunction with standard treatments for many medical conditions.  By releasing endorphins and decreasing cortisol massage promotes relaxation responses in the body and can help, in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, to return the body to balance.

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