The body’s immune response mechanism really is remarkable. Even this second, your body is under attack by viruses, bacteria and parasites, kept at bay by a complex system of cells, tissues and organs which work together to fight illness. With so many challenges to face, the immune system needs to be kept strong, but illness and injury, poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress can all weaken its function over time.
However, the immune system’s components are capable of rebuilding themselves, and people who actively work towards a healthier lifestyle have been known to see an improvement in their resistance to illness. Over the last number of years, studies have shown that massage therapy can also have a positive effect on immune response.
Read on to find out more about the immune system, and some techniques massage therapy diploma students learn to improve the immune response function in patients.
The body is capable of two types of immune response: innate and adaptive. The innate immune response in humans is present from birth and recognizes threats automatically, producing cells to combat them. Adaptive immune response is a learned behavior, where the immune system does not immediately recognize infections when they first enter the body, but responds more rapidly over time as they become familiar. Vaccinations that contain small doses of a virus, such as flu vaccine, work by triggering an adaptive response.
During their anatomy courses at massage therapist college, students learn about several key components of the immune system’s function, including the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. All of these body parts produce lymphocytes, which are types of white blood cells that are circulated around the body through the lymphatic system to fight antigens. In a weakened immune system, these cells are not being produced at a high enough rate.
Students in massages courses may be interested to learn about recent studies which have demonstrated the benefits of Swedish massage to immune system function. In a 2010 study by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical center, subjects experienced an increased level of lymphocytes, as well lower levels of cytokines, which are molecules that contribute to inflammation.
A further study took place on a group of 53 men and women in 2013. After undertaking a 45 minute massage session consisting of light effleurage, petrissage, kneading, tapotement and friction strokes, researchers noted a decrease in cortisol levels and vasopressin, as well as improvement in the biomarkers for immune function. Massage therapy increases blood circulation while relieving tension in the body’s muscles and sympathetic nervous system, providing numerous beneficial effects that may combine to strengthen the immune system.
Interested in studying for a massage therapy diploma? Contact OVCMT for more information.