Getting a massage feels amazing, and if you’ve ever had one—this is something you already know! In fact, that good feeling of a massage kicks in as soon as you’re sitting in the waiting area.
And once your massage starts, you experience the instant gratification of touch, but the big question is why is this touch therapy so satisfying, and why does massage feel so good?
One of the biggest reasons a massage feels good is because being pushed on by a pair of expert hands stimulates the vagus nerve aka the pneumogastric nerve—which connects your brain to your body, consequently releasing a calming chemical called acetylcholine.
A Surge of Feel-Good Chemicals
There’s a lot that goes on in your body and brain when you get a massage.
A massage is proven to release dopamine and serotonin—chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters that help regulate many bodily functions such as your mood, memory, sleep, libido, and appetite, while decreasing the stress hormone cortisol, resulting in overall relaxation.
Adding to this, a massage also stimulates the vagal cavity, which is responsible for certain functions of your body, particularly your heart rate. Your heart rate slows down during a massage, resulting in lower blood pressure, and decreased stress hormones.
The Human Element
The power of human touch dates back to your infancy, and is essential for proper human development.
Touch is required even as we grow older, and is probably because it can communicate things words can’t, such as getting in touch with your thoughts and emotions.
Human touch also plays a pivotal role towards your emotional wellbeing—think embraces, handshakes and even cuddling, all of which improve mood, reduce stress, and contribute to your overall well-balanced health.
Muscle knots are formed when waste products such as lactic acid and lactates accumulate, and cause pain due to the lack of blood flow.
Massaging muscle knots helps release the buildup of these waste products, and increase blood flow.
So, not only do you get rid of the pain stemming from knotty muscles, but also feel more relaxed during and after a massage.
Your Brain Responds to Aromas and Smells
Similar to when you’re relaxing in a bath drizzled with essential oils, many massage therapists apply fragrant essential oils to your skin.
These oils work hand in hand with touch, and stimulate specific brain activity. For example, grapefruit essential oil accelerates the production of enkephalins—peptides that have potent painkilling effects, and help you feel calm.
Lavender is one of the most commonly used massage therapy oils for several reasons, most notably because it promotes relaxation and sleepiness.
Getting a massage helps you relax and get rid of stress, it also boosts your energy to make you feel good.
When you get a massage, it affects your lymph system—your organ system that’s responsible for moving blood throughout your body. With improved blood circulation, your immune system is able to ward off infections, and prevents you from feeling run-down.
As your massage session begins, you close your eyes, and enter a whole new zone—one that’s free from daily stress and worries.
You experience a sense of calm called mindfulness—a phase that helps regulate emotion and boost body awareness. When you’re in a state of mindfulness, your brain is more relaxed and less active, so you basically disconnect from the outside world.
A massage helps you feel good in several ways including by releasing key feel good chemicals in your body. It is one of the oldest forms of healing traditions, and is proven to be highly effective at managing anxiety, stress, insomnia, chronic back pain, and much more.