Let’s be 100 percent honest: Most of the time when you book a massage appointment, you’re not necessarily thinking about the health perks. You just know it feels so good, and you can’t wait for some sweet woman to jam her elbow into that knot in your right shoulder.
There’s no reason to feel guilty for that massage bill, though, because it turns out a massage is like an investment in your overall health. Finally, something that rubs you the *right* way.
Even if you’re not an athlete with constant muscle soreness, your body and mind may benefit from a massage, and here’s the proof:
1. Massages relieve pain (obviously).
Some people feel self indulgent for heading to the massage table to relieve pain, but this is a valid concern, and you deserve to feel better. After all, chronic pain in the back, neck, hips, or knees can be seriously debilitating and hold you back from participating in activities.
Anyone can benefit from a pain-relieving massage, but massages may be especially beneficial for people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, some cancers, or chronic back or neck pain. Other ideal candidates include pregnant women (because you know that baby bump takes its toll on the spine).
2. Massages boost your mood.
When you’re stressed, your body experiences the wrath of higher level of the stress hormone cortisol. Being in a continuous state of heightened cortisol levels can wear down certain parts of your body and lead to physical symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety, such as headaches and lowered libido. (Here are other potential causes of a low libido.)
Not only can a good massage slightly lower cortisol levels, but it can also boost levels of oxytocin. That’s the “feel good” hormone that promotes bonding and connection in humans. You know, it’s the one that spikes during sex and kissing, as well as between a mother and her breastfeeding baby.
Oxytocin is truly designed to reinforce life-affirming activities—like nurturing, social bonding, and reproduction—according to the American Psychological Association. In other words, your body *wants* you to get that massage (basically).
It’s not just a temporary mood boost. Massage therapy may actually help ease symptoms of depression, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Prenatal massage therapy also helped pregnant women experience less postpartum depression after delivery (and their babies had higher birth weights upon delivery as well).
3. Massages may improve your sleep quality.
Falling asleep is all about relaxing. High stress and anxiety at night can keep you up later, cause you to wake up repeatedly throughout the night, and experience poor-quality sleep.
It might not be a huge surprise, but a massage can help you relax and thus (finally) help you get some shut-eye, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Not only that, but massages may help people with severe pain to get relief and sleep uninterrupted. Check out these other tips to sleep better tonight.
4. Massages may relieve tension headaches.
People get different types of headaches for different reasons, but a tension headache is caused by—you guessed it—extreme tension in the body caused by high stress. Here are other common headache triggers.
Gentle massages of the neck, head, and spine may help reduce tension headaches by relaxing the muscles in the area, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Learn more relaxation techniques that may help here.)
Welp, science is on your side this time: Book that massage and treat yourself. You’ll get more out of it than just a couple happy sighs.