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flu

In its ‘Research Roundup” column, the American Massage Therapy Association reported on findings that link massage to a more fortified immune system. Several studies have shown that massage therapy can effectively stave off colds and the flu, especially during the winter months.

It is believed that incorporating regular massage into one’s health and fitness regime can strengthen the immune system. Please note that before beginning such a plan, it is advised to also discuss other prevention strategies with your doctor and an experienced massage therapist.

The president of the American Massage Therapy Association, Jeff Smoot, explained, “Those researchers working with patients with compromised immune systems have found massage therapy can improve how the immune system functions.” Smoot also noted that the benefits of massage therapy extend to those who are actively seeking to avoid contracting the common cold and flu. For example, individuals who are frequently faced with exposure to unprotected environments such as teachers, medical professionals, and frequent commuters. They are some of the best candidates who could benefit from regular massage as a means to ward off the cold and flu.

So, how does it work? Controlled studies show that, “Massage therapy increases the activity level of the body’s white blood cells that work to combat viruses.” The highly esteemed, multi-specialty academic teaching hospital in Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai, conducted a study that employed Swedish massage. The control group demonstrated major increases in lymphocytes, which are vital in fighting diseases. As explained in the article, “A lymphocyte is one of the three subtypes of white blood cells in the immune system.”

Another study included a control group of HIV-positive adolescents. After twelve weeks of regular massage therapy, the participants were shown to have improved immune function. One of the most significant findings was that the subjects experienced an increase in a certain type of white blood cells: “known as natural killer or NK cells, which provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells.”

The benefits from massage therapy in staying healthy during flu season were further supported through a study that included women with stage one and two breast cancer. It was found that massage therapy encouraged the secretion of dopamine and serotonin. The healing power of touch also apparently helped increase their level of NK cells and lymphocytes.
Please be aware that seeking massage therapy when a cold or the flu has already taken hold is not advised. In addition to exposing your massage therapist to illness, having a massage when you are already sick can spread it throughout your system and make you feel even worse. Instead, schedule a massage once you are on the mend.

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