Can Massage Help You Lose Weight?

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on October 9, 2019
Last updated on May 23, 2021

Health care professionals, dieticians, and personal trainers all agree that any healthy, low-risk, effective plan to lose weight should involve both diet and exercise. While these two directs your body’s proportions, exercise is mainly responsible for cutting out previously gained weight. Similar to bacon fat, our body fat can only liquefy at warmer temperatures, hence activities that make our bodies warm and sweating are often recommended.

a woman being massaged

Did you know that massage can be a perfect ally to a disciplined diet and workout routines? Massage therapies offer several health benefits, which includes effectively supporting exercise and weight loss. But before you start calling a therapist for an appointment, you must know the details. So read on!

What Is Massage?

Massage therapy is a treatment approach that is continuously growing in demand and popularity. Previously, it was just an alternative technique, but today, it has become much more mainstream that even insurance companies are now offering coverage for massage treatment sessions.

This form of therapy makes use of hand techniques like rubbing and kneading of the body. There are several kinds of massage that focus on different body parts or healing approaches. During a session, a therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to muscles, joints, and tendons.

Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

As mentioned earlier, all massage techniques generally fall under the alternative medicine umbrella. They have become a popular complementary therapy for several conditions. Here are some of the advantages of getting massage therapy:

1. Relieves Muscle Tension and Pain

Heat has long been used to relieve muscle tension and pain by increasing blood flow to the affected area. It also reduces muscle spasms and improves flexibility and range of motion. Cold therapy helps control inflammation. Depending on your symptoms, the use of alternating hot and cold stones and oils during a massage session can be very helpful.

2. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

The American Massage Therapy Association believes that massage can be an effective stress reliever. Several studies support their opinion. One study showed that a 10-minute massage can help improve cardiovascular responses like stroke volume (1). Even a 15-minute, onsite chair massage in the workplace can greatly reduce stress (2). Experts also found that patients who underwent abdominal colorectal surgery experienced less pain, tension, and anxiety after getting a post-operative massage (3).

3. Boosts Immunity

Massage therapy can give your immune system a big boost. Even just a single session of Swedish massage can give a positive and acute impact on immunity. Massage can decrease arginine-vasopressin levels, a hormone that helps regulate water retention and blood pressure (4).

4. Promotes Sleep

Review of literature found that massage can be an excellent alternative to sleeping pills in adult patients with insomnia. Back massage, specifically, promotes sleep and relaxation (5). Infants, on the other hand, may benefit from a 15-minute massage by their parents. They get to sleep faster and were more active, alert, and positive upon awakening (6).

5. Alleviates Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases

Massage, especially those that use hot stones, can relieve painful conditions like fibromyalgia. Patients who received a message for half an hour slept longer, experienced fewer trigger points, and had decreased levels of P, which transmits pain signals (7). Patients with rheumatoid arthritis also benefited from moderate-pressure massage. They get less pain, better grip strength, and improved range of motion after a month of massage therapy (8).

6. Decreases Cancer Symptoms

A 3-year study examined how massage affected pain, stress, anxiety, fatigue, nausea, and depression in nearly 1,300 cancer patients. Results showed that massage, especially the Swedish technique, have improved cancer symptoms (9). Experts think that it is because of the comfort brought about by human touch.

7. Treats Headaches

Massage can decrease the severity and frequency of tension headaches. Evidence proved that even just a single session of massage therapy, perceived pain in patients with chronic tension headaches were decreased immediately (10).

8. Lowers Blood Pressure

Several studies proved that massage therapy sessions can help reduce blood pressure levels. A clinical trial on 50 pre-hypertensive women revealed that massage can help lower both the mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure (11). The same benefits were observed in the elderly with pre-hypertension and stage-1 hypertension (12). These make massage a safe, effective, and cost-friendly intervention in controlling BP, which can be used in the health care centers and even at home.

9. Improves Posture

A lot of people experience back, back, and muscle pain, which may stem from poor posture. In fact, low back pain is considered to be the most common cause of job-related disability and is one of the reasons for missed work days (13). Massage therapy can help get your body back into its proper position. It allows the body to relax and loosen tensed and sore muscles made by bad posture. There is evidence showing that massage therapy can be effective in treating non-specific low back pain (14).

10. Aids Weight Loss

While massage therapies are not designed specifically for weight loss, they aid in losing extra inches from your body in an indirect manner. By helping you improve the effectiveness of your workouts, you’ll make your body look more firm and in shape. Massage therapies can also help tighten loose skin.

How Can Massage Help You Lose Weight?

Here are several ways professional massage can help you get the most out of your fitness regime and lose weight:

1. Improving Muscle’s Flexibility and Range of Motion

Massage allows you to maintain maximum power and performance while actively burning the maximum number of calories during an exercise. Improved flexibility and range of motion can also help reduce soreness during periods of muscle repair and recovery.

2. Speeding Up Recovery Between Workouts

Massage can increase the count of regenerating muscle fibers, especially when performed immediately after a workout (15). It can also help relieve pain and soreness, allowing you to prepare and perform better on your next session. This makes massage an essential tool for recovery between intense workouts. But of course, do not overdo it. Otherwise, it can make you feel sleepy.

3. Treating Injury

A key benefit of adding massage to your fitness regime is speeding recovery from injuries. With any type of sprain or strain, the muscles shorten and when they heal, it’s usually tighter than they were originally. Massage can be very helpful in loosening up those tightened muscles and restore them to their original structure and length. This can lead you toward faster recovery after an injury.

4. Preventing Injury

Relaxing those muscles does not only relieve tension, tightness, and pain; they can help prevent further injuries. It addresses extensibility, or your muscles and soft tissues’ ability to be stretched. Massage increases blood flow and through time, a muscle can stretch a little further. This is a good way to prevent injuries.

5. Addressing Stress

Massage therapies are known to be effective in easing depression symptoms. Experts say that it can help one’s general well-being by reducing overall stress. By getting a short holiday away from work and other distractions, one can be relieved from emotional tension. A massage professional can help facilitate that.

6. Increasing Metabolic Rate

Metabolism can be enhanced by increasing the exchange of nutritive substances between blood and tissue cells. This is possible only with healthy circulation. Maximizing the supply of oxygen and nutrients by increasing blood flow allows muscles to burn more calories.

7. Supporting Digestive Functions

A well-functioning digestive system is important in achieving one’s target weight. The allocation of fat for burning or storing and the elimination of waste products all happen within the gastrointestinal tract, making its overall health instrumental in body size and proportion. Massage can promote digestive health by using techniques like belly massage and meridian bodywork, which targets the stomach, large intestine, and spleen.

8. Reducing Abdominal Fat Hormone

In response to physical and emotional stress, cortisol increases appetite and fat deposition in the belly area. While exercise is considered to be the best technique to lower cortisol levels, massage has been proven to decrease its circulating level (16). This helps relieve stress, decrease appetite, and reduce fat accumulation; all of which aids in weight loss.

9. Physical Bursting of Fat Capsule

While in most cases, massage indirectly aids in fat loss, there are some research studies suggesting that vigorous massage can burst fat capsules in the subcutaneous tissue directly. This causes adipose tissue to exude, preparing it for removal. In combination with good nutrition and exercise, lymphatic draining massage can be very helpful.

10. Rewarding Hard Work and Dedication

In addition to all of the many physiological reasons massage supports weight loss, bodywork may also serve as a motivator. Celebrating your accomplishments without sabotaging a slimmer waistline can help you stick to a good weight-loss program. Getting a good massage is an appropriate reward for body improvement and dedication.

Effective Massages for Weight Loss

There are 3 types of massages that have been effective in melting away layers of body fat. These are the ones that have got the most rave reviews!

1. Aromatherapy Massage

This is a special type of weight loss massage that uses special mixtures of oils from flowers, leaves, fruits, and seeds extracts. They can help decrease your desire to binge eat, induce sleep, and relieve muscle pain.

2. Lymphatic Massage

Lymphatic massage will speed up your metabolism. It also works by improving the circulation of lymph fluid and enhances the drainage of the excess amounts. Improving immunity can also help flush out toxins and reduce stress and anxiety. Getting this massage done regularly can help change your eating habits. People who are into sports have used this technique to heal injuries and recover quickly.

3. Abdominal Massage

Abdominal massage will also aid in excreting body toxins by boosting your metabolism and making your digestive tract works better than before. Not only will you be taking fewer calories, but this will also encourage you to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

Are There Any Risks Involved?

Most people can benefit from massage therapies. However, you might need to consult a doctor first if you have burns, fractures, osteoporosis, deep vein thrombosis, thrombocytopenia, and bleeding disorders. Pregnant women and cancer patients should also take precautions.

Some types of massage can leave you feeling a little sore the next day, but it should not be extremely painful. If any part of your massage doesn’t feel right, speak up immediately. Serious problems may arise from too much pressure during a session.

Work with a licensed massage therapist only to avoid possible complications! If you are not sure about someone’s qualifications and experience, ask for referrals.

The Bottom Line

While massage does not replace the standards of diet and exercise for weight loss, its addition to your fitness regime can help shed pounds. It can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and overall well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for a way to indulge or pamper yourself.

Get in touch with a professional masseur and start your journey towards a healthy body now!


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