Is Swedish Massage Good for Stress?

Stress is an inevitable part of life that can take a toll on both physical and mental health if left unchecked. Chronic stress has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, and more. Finding effective stress management techniques is crucial for overall wellbeing. One option that many people find helpful for relieving stress is Swedish massage. But is there evidence that Swedish massage actually helps with stress?

Swedish massage is one of the most widely practiced massage techniques worldwide. It involves the massage therapist using long, flowing strokes, kneading, and friction techniques on the top layers of muscles. The goal is to increase circulation, ease muscle tension, enhance flexibility, and promote overall relaxation.

Multiple scientific studies have shown Swedish massage can have significant effects on stress levels. For example, research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine evaluated how Swedish massage impacted stress hormones and immune function in people under either moderate or severe psychological stress. Getting a 45-minute Swedish massage significantly decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increased the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that play a large role in immune response. This demonstrates Swedish massage can help regulate the body’s stress response and support healthy immune system functioning.

Additional research has focused more specifically on Swedish massage for stress among healthcare professionals, who are exposed to very high-stress work environments. In a study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, nurses received either Swedish massage or relaxation therapy for five weeks. Both groups showed substantial improvements in mental health, anxiety, and stress coping abilities, suggesting Swedish massage can be an excellent stress management tool even for those facing high occupational stress.

For students, test-taking can be an extremely stressful experience. A study in the Journal of Teaching and Learning in Nursing examined the effects of Swedish massage therapy versus traditional nursing care for student nurses right before final exams. The students who received Swedish massage therapy showed significantly lower pre-exam anxiety and cortisol levels, along with higher lymphocyte counts. This indicates Swedish massage facilitated a healthier stress response during a real-life stressful situation.

While more research is still needed, the evidence so far demonstrates Swedish massage therapy can serve as an effective tool for managing both acute and chronic stress. The combination of physical relaxation along with emotional calming effects provided by Swedish massage makes it a great option to incorporate into a self-care routine as part of an overall stress management plan. Getting regular massages, even just once a month, may help keep your stress levels in check. Of course, practicing other healthy habits like getting enough sleep, exercise, meditation, proper nutrition and social connection are also essential for coping with life’s demands in a balanced, sustainable way.