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Massage and Your Immune System by Jen Servidio

Do you know someone who has an allergy? Maybe it’s hay fever, a reaction to peanuts or a bee sting? If you are like millions of Americans, allergies such as these are a part of everyday life. Any person that is sensitive to tree nuts makes a habit of reading labels and checking ingredients. What about someone with an autoimmune condition such as colitis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis? What do allergies and autoimmune conditions have in common? An improper functioning of the immune system.

An allergy is a reaction in which the immune system responds to an inappropriate trigger, or stimulus, with inflammation. Sometimes the stimulus is known as in a peanut allergy or a bee sting. Other times the stimulus is unknown as is the case with anklyosing sponylitis (a progressive inflammatory arthritis that affects spine). Autoimmune conditions also are a reaction by the immune system in which there is an inflammatory response to an inappropriate trigger. Basically, the immune system creates antibodies that attach and attack particles that are deemed “non-self”.

Massage to Reduce Stress

Stress can play a large role in immune system conditions. Lack of sleep and poor nutrition all do their part to wear down the immune system as well. In a person coping with allergies or immune conditions, a stressful day or rough night’s sleep can make a world of difference.

Another thing that can make a world of difference is massage. We’ve all heard the benefits of massage for some time now. Regular massage does help alleviate stress. In a recent study performed by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it was found the massage decreases the body’s levels of stress hormones and increases the production of cells that aid immune system response. Massage stimulates the lymphatic system and improves circulation which helps to promote a feeling of wellness and balance weakened immune systems. This is especially important for people who are not able to exercise regularly.

Massages speaks to the entire being, helping to create a feeling of wholeness and restore balance to an imbalanced body. It also was discovered that regular massage increases cytotoxic capacity (the activity of killer cells) and decreases the number of T-cells which helps the immune system to function better. For instance, Gail Ironson, M.D. conducted a study in which HIV positive men received 45 minute massages five times a week over the course of a month. The results showed an increase in their natural killer cells which are part of the immune system. A stronger immune system contributes to the fight against bacteria and infection.

The key to these impressive results is in regular massage. What constitutes regular massage? For the average person, it can be anywhere between once every two to three weeks. Those dealing with a specific issue, such as the above mentioned, a one to two week schedule may be more productive. The important fact to remember is to find a therapist you are comfortable with that is willing to take the time to listen to your concerns and model the massage session to your needs.

Jen Servidio is a licensed massage therapist and the owner of Feel Better Bodyworks, located at 217 Rt. 303 S in Valley Cottage. For more information, contact 721-9643 or or visit

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