hand catching featherScientific studies shows massage boosts the immune system by 30% as it increases cell production. Massage triggers a drop in the stress hormone cortisol and a surge in dopamine and oxytocin, known as the “happy hormones”. But improved mood is not the only thing massage can help with. At a time when many people are worried about the level of access to their GP and NHS healthcare, the knowledge that massage can make a significant contribution to health and wellbeing is good news.

The Truth About: Boosting Your Immunity, was a BBC documentary broadcast in January 2022. It showed the science behind some amazing claims about the immune boosting benefits of massage. Scientists found that massage increased the production of the all important infection fighting T-cells, which have been discussed a lot during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are Helper and Killer T-Cells?
T-cells are like a special forces unit that fights only one kind of virus attacking your body. There are two types of T-cells: Helper T-cells and Killer T-cells. Killer T-cells do the work of destroying the infected cells. The Helper T-cells coordinate the attack by delivering instructions to other cells in the immune system. These instructions help Killer T-cells to multiply so they can fight the infection more effectively and make sure the fight stays under control.

hands massaging lower backT-cells increased by 30% after massage
To test this a blood sample was taken from the BBC Presenter Dr Ikharia before having a one hour massage. Another sample was taken post massage and the two samples were measured for T-cells and other immune cells; the increase was very impressive. All Dr Ikharia’s immune cells had increased but the most important ones, the T-cells, increased by almost 30%. When you consider that we have millions of immune cells, a 30% increase is a huge number of extra infection fighting cells.

Stress Hormones Reduced by Massage
In The Anatomy of Touch series on BBC Radio 4, scientists were interviewed about the health and wellbeing benefits of touch. Tiffany Field, Director of The Touch Research Institute at Miami University, has also studied the effects of massage therapy. The study shows that as skin is moved the nervous system slows down, not only are stress hormones then reduced but as we have seen, killer cells are increased and stored. Another interesting discovery was that participants who received regular touch in one month through hugs and massage, were less likely to develop a cold.

So, the evidence is pretty solid. Regular massage should be an important part of our efforts to improve health and wellbeing, fighting viral and bacterial infections and managing our mental health. And let’s be honest, it has to be the most enjoyable way there is to stay healthy.