At this time of year, with a furious flu season bearing down in our region, it’s a good idea to adopt practices that will help keep our immune systems working at their best. A healthy diet, regular exercise and proper hydration are all important aspects to helping keep our immune systems in top shape. Did you know that massage therapy can also be an important way to keep your body healthy?
Here's how massage fits in to fighting off unwanted illness and staying well. First we must learn about the ways our body defends against pathogens like the flu and other viruses, meet the Lymphatic System.
Our Lymphatic System is a network of capillary like structures that run essentially parallel to the veins and capillaries in our Circulatory System. As the lymph makes its way through the tissues, any pathogens such as viruses and bacteria that are there as well as beneficial white blood cells are swept up and absorbed into the surrounding lymphatic vessels. After passing through the various lymph nodes (our bodies have about 600 of them) the lymph has been cleaned of pathogens and is then returned to the Circulatory System at the lowest pressure end of the Vena Cava, just before entering the heart.
The miracle of the Lymphatic System is that, unlike it’s partner, the Circulatory System, it has no pump to move the fluids throughout. The Lymphatic System relies almost entirely on the movement of our muscles to circulate lymph and maintain, healthy immune function. It is for this reason that exercise is so important; the movement healthy muscle tissue combined with robust cardio-vascular physical activity has been shown to have lasting benefit to our immune functions. But exercise alone is not the only way that the flow of lymph can be increased. In certain people, the lymph nodes may be congested and flow may be diminished. Massage therapy has been shown to have a direct and positive impact on our Lymphatic System and overall immunity. In a 2010 study, researchers in Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences reported that a significant production of Lymphocytes which play a large role in defending the body from disease, was observed after just one 60-minute massage. Of additional note, according to Jeff Smoot, 2015 president of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), “Researchers working with patients with compromised immune systems have found massage therapy can improve how the immune system functions. Those same benefits can translate to people seeking to fight off the common cold, flu and other seasonal illnesses.”
Because Lymphatic System relies on the movement, expansion and compression of our muscles to properly function, then the application of Swedish massage which moves, compresses, stretches and expands the muscles can only be beneficial.
Overall, getting a massage is a great way to relax, smooth out tired and sore muscles and just feel real good but it is also a proven way to help your body fight those seasonal “bugs” that always seem to hit at just the wrong time. Keep your body healthy by getting a massage this winter.
Written by Rob DiTursi