TouchStone Health Photo
TouchStone Health Photo
TouchStone Health Photo

The Benefits of Massage for Nervous System Regulation

by Maggie Seegmiller, RMT

Massage therapy has been shown to be beneficial for nervous system regulation through various mechanisms that reduce stress and promote relaxation. One of the primary ways massage achieves this is by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s rest-and-digest response. Research indicates that massage therapy can significantly lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, and increase the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that contribute to a sense of well-being and relaxation .

Additionally, massage therapy has been found to activate the body’s pressure receptors, which send signals to the brain to reduce the production of stress hormones and stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve plays a crucial role in controlling the parasympathetic nervous system and helps in lowering heart rate and promoting a state of calmness. Studies have shown that regular massage therapy can enhance vagal activity, leading to improved mood and a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms.

Furthermore, massage therapy can improve blood circulation and ease muscle tension. Enhanced blood flow ensures that oxygen and nutrients are more efficiently delivered to tissues, which can help in healing and reducing pain. The relaxation of tense muscles and the alleviation of pain through massage can also reduce the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response, which is often overactive in individuals with chronic stress and anxiety .

Overall, the benefits of massage therapy for nervous system regulation are well-supported by scientific research. By promoting relaxation, reducing stress hormones, stimulating the vagus nerve, and improving circulation, massage therapy can effectively help maintain a balanced nervous system and contribute to improved mental and physical health.


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  3. Diego, M. A., & Field, T. (2009). Vagal activity, early growth and emotional development. Infant Behavior and Development, 32(3), 355-362.
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