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If you've always thought massage was something only pampered spa clients indulge in, you might want to reconsider. Massage, aside from feeling wonderful, actually delivers a host of legitimate health benefits. Don't believe it? Consider the evidence:

  • Less anxiety and depression. In several studies, depressed children, women suffering from anorexia, and smokers trying to quit were found to have lower levels of anxiety and stress after massage, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

  • Lower levels of pain. Study subjects who had fibromyalgia, migraines and recent surgery experienced less pain after receiving massages. And while there's no way to make childbirth easy, studies have shown that massaging a laboring woman causes her muscles to relax and lowers her pain levels, possibly shortening her labor and hospital stay.

  • Better immune function. Studies of HIV patients who received regular massages showed an increase in their number of natural killer cells, which keep the immune system humming.

  • Easier cancer treatment. Cancer patients who got massages during treatment were less tired and anxious and reported less pain.

  • Lower blood pressure. In one study of 263 massage recipients, the average systolic blood pressure was lowered by more than 10 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), the average diastolic blood pressure was lowered by more than 5 millimeters of mercury, and the average heart rate was reduced almost 11 beats per minute after receiving deep-tissue massage.

  • Deeper sleep. A study of fibromyalgia patients revealed that those who received regular massages during treatment slept more deeply and with less movement during the night than those who received other forms of relaxation therapy over the course of several weeks.

  • Better athletic performance. Massage is a great tool for professional athletes and recreational exercisers alike. It can increase joint flexibility, reduce muscle soreness and shorten recovery times.

  • Higher self-esteem. Physical touch can help people feel special and cared for, especially those with disabilities or illnesses or without regular partners to provide physical contact.

  • Increased growth for babies. It's been shown that babies need touch in order to grow and develop normally. Premature babies especially benefit from massage, becoming more active and alert and gaining weight more quickly than those who aren't massaged.

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Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals,; Mayo Clinic,; Touch Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine

National Institutes of Health,