According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure affects every one in three adults in the United States. It is often normal for adults to experience high blood pressure when they are engaging in intense activities. However, if the individual’s blood pressure remains consistently high, there is a high risk of heart disease and stroke.1
And while a physician is likely to recommend medication to help regulate blood pressure, they are also likely to recommend a few other strategies which could aid in controlling blood pressure. In fact, you should not be surprised if booking a massage session appears at the top of the list simply because this technique has been found to control blood pressure. There is substantial scientific evidence pointing to the immediate and cumulative benefits of massage.
About High Blood Pressure
Massage is currently not entirely the domain of luxury resorts, health clubs, and spas. It is now being used in rehabilitation centers and hospitals to complement treatment programs for injuries, pain, and other ailments. Unfortunately, there is no way to sugar coat this: high blood pressure is frightening and potentially life-threatening.
Normally, blood pressure measures the amount of force that blood exerts on the walls of blood vessel walls as it circulates through the body. It is usually recorded in fraction form, with the numerator or systolic pressure measuring the force created by the heart’s pumping action. The denominator, or diastolic pressure, measures the force that the heart creates between beats.
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If the blood vessels become narrow as a result of plaque buildup, blood is forced to squeeze through a smaller cross-section, which in turn creates more force against the blood vessel walls. And if the body retains fluid because of an underlying ailment or excessive salt intake, the extra fluid could result in extra pressure on the arteries. Blood pressure that exceeds 120/80 mmHg should be considered risky, and necessary measures should be taken to lower it.
The Science Behind Massage Therapy and Blood Pressure
Several studies indicate that the Swedish massage, which is a gentle and relaxing type of massage could be useful in controlling and eventually lowering blood pressure.
For example, a 2008 study published in the Alternative and Complementary medicine journal tested the effect of various massage types on lowering blood pressure. Analyzing the readings that were taken before and after individuals received a massage, the researchers discovered that Swedish massage lowered blood pressure, while sports massage and trigger point therapy increased blood pressure.2
Some studies also show that aromatherapy massage could aid in lowering blood pressure. In a study conducted in 2007 published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, 58 women going through menopause were placed either in a control group or eight-week aromatherapy massage sessions that used rose geranium, jasmine, and lavender essential oils.3
The results of the study suggested that aromatherapy massage could aid in controlling blood pressure among women in menopause.
Another 2008 study from the Alternative and Complementary Medicine Journal found that enjoying some deep-tissue massage therapy while enjoying soothing music could result in a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure.4
Using Massage to Control Blood Pressure
Exercising regularly, sticking to a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and achieving and maintaining the recommended healthy weight are all vital for maintaining healthy blood pressure. And while it might be too soon to recommend massage therapy for controlling blood pressure, receiving massages regularly could reduce your stress levels, which would consequently decrease the risk of high blood pressure in the future.
Benefits of Massage
Massage could involve a handful of hands-on techniques which squeeze, press, stretch, and rub the tendons, muscles, soft tissues, and ligaments in the body. Massage could be gentle and deep. Receiving a massage could lead one to feel as if they are cared for and feel the urge to take charge of their health.
According to Mayo Clinic, some patients experience a reduction in blood pressure when their stress levels go down.5 Furthermore, massage could aid in improving circulation, which could reduce edema or swelling that occurs from high blood pressure.
While there is a lot of research that should be done to provide a better understanding of how massage helps in controlling blood pressure, the truth is that it seems to help some patients when it is used as part of a blood pressure management plan.
Normal Blood Pressure and Massage
For individuals who are not suffering from high blood pressure, otherwise referred to as pre-hypertension, regular massage sessions that use the Swedish method could aid in maintaining normal blood pressure, as well as prevent the onset of hypertension. Some other methods have been found to be ideal for specific conditions, like sports massage or trigger point therapy, but the Swedish massage is the best for general relaxation and health benefits.
Massage usually stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates a calming effect in the body. In most cases, the one-on-one treatment that individuals experience during a massage could elevate mood and release any feelings of distress.
It is essential that you keep the body hydrated when undergoing massage treatments. Proper hydration thins the lymph fluid and blood, so they will circulate more easily through the body.
Safety and Precautions
Since massage could affect blood circulation, patients suffering from hypertension or any type of heart disease should check with their doctors before scheduling a massage session. Massage should be avoided where there are blood clots present or if there is a high risk of internal bleeding. Massage should never increase symptoms or cause pain. For the best results, it is advisable that you speak to a therapist before and during your session about any concerns.
Whether you’re looking to massage therapy as a high blood pressure prevention or regulation technique, this relaxing practice has been shown to provide a wide range of benefits and could be well worth incorporating into your routine.
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