Have you had a massage lately? If you haven’t, you really should start. The University of Konstanz in Germany has put out research that shows massage, even just ten minutes, can significantly reduce your stress levels – even if you are an otherwise perfectly healthy woman. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200918104305.htm
Considering the amount of stress living in the middle of a global pandemic is causing, anything that can have a positive effect should be looked at. However, most research around the benefits of massage has generally focused on the elderly, infants, or various medical or psychological concerns. So, this is the first major study to show how an apparently simple massage can have significant effects on completely healthy women.
The study only had 60 healthy women as their subjects, and they only tested two types of massage (vagus nerve massage and a soft shoulder massage). This means that while they are pleased with the results, obviously much more testing is going to be needed to work out what time of massage is going to be best. Who’s keen to test this out?
Your Vagus Nerve
Your vagus nerve goes from your brain stem down to your colon. This nerve is responsible for providing the sensation when the skin behind your ear is touched, as well as certain parts of your throat. It also is responsible for causing the digestive contractions that allow you to process food. However, for this study, the most important job that your vagus nerve does is stimulating the heart to help lower your resting heart rate.
One of the more common ways to stimulate your vagus nerve (and cause a decrease in your heart rate) is to take deep breathes that fill your diaphragm, and release with a long and slow exhale. This is a method often taught to those with anxiety issues. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201607/vagus-nerve-stimulation-dramatically-reduces-inflammation
Vagus Nerve Massage
There are different methods you can use for vagus nerve massage (as a quick search on YouTube shows) but in this study, the aim was to cause a reaction to the parasympathetic system. This system is the parts of the body responsible for decreasing stress response, by slowing breathing, maintaining a steady heart rate, and increasing digestion. Simply, the researchers used moderate pressure and steady strokes to massage the head and neck areas.
Source: Angelo Esslinger https://www.instagram.com/mehralsnurpixel
Soft Shoulder Massage
While this doesn’t stimulate the vagus nerve, it does feel divine. A soft shoulder massage is light strokes applied to the back and shoulder area. This style of treatment is known to improve general wellbeing and is a common type of massage. The researchers wanted to use this method to compare a treatment that focused on wellbeing with a treatment that focused on stimulation.
Not to be confused with a deep tissue or sports massage that can often leave you feeling more stressed than when you went in. This the soft shoulder and back focus is a very superficial technique that provides pure relaxation without any improvement in underlying tension.
Source: Shahariar Lenin https://instagram.com/shahariarlenin
Is ten minutes of massage enough?
According to the researchers, this is all it takes to promote a healthier heart rate and to de-stress. Of course, that would be ten minutes every day. So to achieve the long-term benefits perhaps look at stopping in to get a touch boost on your way home from work each day?
If you can’t manage a daily massage, researchers also found that ten minutes of pure rest is almost as good. While you are probably thinking mediation and rolling your eyes, this could also be ten minutes under a tree reading a book or listening to three more restful songs.
Stress is a killer. If you can’t get someone to rub your shoulders, then try to find other ways to take ten minutes for yourself each day. And put on the timer! Ten minutes is a longer time than most women seem to realize, particularly when its time they’re taking for themselves. Make sure you get the full benefits of the small amount of time you allot to your wellbeing.