Massage may help protect against high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Some studies suggest that getting a massage may help calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for raising your blood pressure in response to stress. Although research on massage and blood pressure is fairly limited, there's some evidence that adding massage to your stress management may help keep your blood pressure in check.
The Science Behind Massage and Blood Pressure
A number of studies indicate that Swedish massage (a gentle, relaxing massage type) may be useful for lowering blood pressure. For instance, a 2006 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine tested the blood-pressure-lowering effects of several types of massage. Looking at readings taken before and after 150 study members received massage treatments, researchers found that Swedish massage reduced blood pressure while trigger point therapy and sports massage each raised blood pressure.
Some research indicates that aromatherapy massage may also help lower blood pressure. In a 2007 study from the International Journal of Neuroscience, for example, 58 women in menopause were assigned to either a control group or eight weekly aromatherapy massage sessions using lavender, rose geranium, rose, and jasmine essential oils. Study results suggest that aromatherapy massage may aid in blood pressure control.
In addition, a 2008 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that undergoing deep-tissue massage therapy while listening to soothing music may lead to a decrease in both blood pressure and heart rate.
Using Massage for Blood Pressure Control
Following a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking are all crucial for healthy blood pressure. While it's too soon to recommend massage therapy for blood pressure control, receiving massage on a regular basis may lessen your stress and—in turn—help protect against high blood pressure. For other stress management solutions, consider taking up yoga, meditation, or tai chi.
If you're interested in using massage to manage your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about incorporating massage into your health routine.
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Cambron JA, Dexheimer J, Coe P. "Changes in blood pressure after various forms of therapeutic massage: a preliminary study." J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Jan-Feb;12(1):65-70.
Hur MH, Oh H, Lee MS, Kim C, Choi AN, Shin GR. "Effects of aromatherapy massage on blood pressure and lipid profile in korean climacteric women." Int J Neurosci. 2007 Sep;117(9):1281-7.
Kaye AD, Kaye AJ, Swinford J, Baluch A, Bawcom BA, Lambert TJ, Hoover JM. "The effect of deep-tissue massage therapy on blood pressure and heart rate." J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Mar;14(2):125-8.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. "Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure". Last accessed March 2011.