A regular massage regimen can reduce the risks associated with stress, such as cardiac arrhythmias (the heart pumps less effectively, so less blood reaches the brain and other vital organs). A number of long-term studies have shown that a consistent massage program can decrease diastolic and systolic blood pressure. And maintaining a healthy blood pressure can contribute to lowering the odds of one having a heart attack. Massage therapy releases contracted muscles and pushes venous blood towards the heart, easing the strain on the heart. In this way, massage offers a drug-free, non-invasive and humanistic approach for allowing the body to naturally heal itself.
Some suggest that massage therapy may move a patient’s nervous system from the sympathetic toward the parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system helps mobilize the body for action (the fight-or-flight response), which ups the heart and breathing rate and causes blood vessels to narrow. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system creates a resting response characterized by a reduced heart and breathing rate and dilated blood vessels. An increasing number of research studies reveal that massage reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure and increases blood circulation. A pilot study conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles showed that in-patient massage treatments performed after heart bypass surgery reduced pain and muscle spasms.
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