Winter is Coming! Regular maintenance massage treatments during cold & flu season can help boost your immune system and hold off the dreaded lurgy! In our last blog post we talked about the circulatory system and how it can affect the immune system. Head back to some high school biology in our blog to get a refresher on how the circulatory system and immune system are connected.
Although flu shots are great to keep you out of trouble in the winter season, not everyone likes them and who wouldn’t want a massage instead? This blog outlines how a regular massage treatment can help keep you healthy all year round, but especially in the colder months.
Firstly, what is the Immune System and Why is it so important?
Imagine your immune system as guards that are constantly on the lookout for unfamiliar bacterias, viruses, and parasites within your body. These ‘guards’ will approach the unfamiliar pathogen (an organism that can produce disease) and attack it in a complex way. Once they attack it, they will remember the pathogen and create a copy within their files so they know what to do and how to deal with the same problem next time, this is called the immune response. Our immune system is vital to our survival, without it we will constantly be attacked by pathogens and would never recover from them.
How can massage support our immune system?
With the immune response in mind, let’s look at how massage can be beneficial;
Massage can increase the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells), cells that help fight off harmful products within our body such as pathogens.
A leading immunologist, Professor Fulvio D’Acquisto has found that white blood cells are stored in certain glands that are connected to our skin through the nervous system. Massage stimulates the nerves and allows the glands to release white blood cells or lymphocytes into the body’s circulatory system. This leads to a strengthening of our immune system.
Chronic stress can play as an immunosuppressant (weaken our immune system). Massage can help with decreasing the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, and increase the amount of serotonin, a happy hormone, which can also support our mental health.
When we are stressed whether this is physical, mental, or emotional stress our stress hormone response increases. Hormones such as cortisol are released into the blood system. Cortisol is actually essential for our immune system, when it is in a balanced amount, as it provides anti-inflammatory effects when inflammation or injury arises helping us to recover from the stress more easily. However, when we are constantly stressed we overproduce cortisol and become desensitised to it. This can lead to our body becoming too used to the process so it would slowly stop doing what it’s meant to do, help our body to recover from injuries and illnesses. When this happens it weakens our immune system and we are not able to recover from certain illnesses and injuries as we do when our immune system is working optimally.
As we mentioned before, by increasing the white blood cells circulating in our system through massage we are balancing out the additional cortisol that is released due to the stressors.
Plus - those happy hormones help balance our physical and mental health stressors out.
We will talk more in-depth about the release of happy hormones and maintenance massage in the 4th blog in our series.
Massage has a massive impact on decreasing chronic pain, this can help our bodies to fight off illnesses easier as pain can negatively affect our immunity via the nervous system.
Pain is a sensation that is created by the nervous system. Receptors within our skin send a signal to our brain that something is not right, that information is passed down to our nerves, causing a sensation of what associate with pain. When there is pain, our body goes into a stress response. This activates the previously discussed cortisol levels from previous pain experiences we have had, over a period of time which weakens our immune system.
Massage provides relief from the pain, reducing the body’s cortisol reaction, ensuring the long-term response is mitigated and maintains our immune system response at a normal level.
Massage also helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients through the circulatory system (see our previous blog) to speed up recovery at pain points. Our nervous system is also linked to the response to stressors and a calming massage can provide the body with alternate focus points and thus change the focus from the pain points.
We will talk more in-depth about the nervous system and the benefits of maintenance massage in blog series 6!
So if you ever needed an excuse to book yourself a massage - this is a great one, it keeps you healthy!! Our maintenance massages are ideal for general wellbeing and health.