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Massage offers wide range of benefits

Tuesday - 7/2/2013, 4:26am  ET

WASHINGTON - Massage has benefits beyond just making people feel good.

Many with chronic illnesses are finding that massage is helping them manage their pain.

Research suggests that massage can ease insomnia, boost immunity, prevent premenstrual syndrome, reports Health Magazine. Many hospitals have started using massage as a standard therapy.

Pain Management

Massages are especially good at easing lower back pain, according to Health Magazine. Massage can work better than common treatments, such as acupuncture and chiropractic therapy, researchers at the Group Health Research Institute found. Massage has been linked to lowering stress hormones while boosting feel-good hormones, including serotonin and dopamine. Massage also increases blood flow to the muscles that can help them heal.

Improved sleep

Massage increases the brain waves linked to deep sleep, according to the Touch Research Institute. It's why many people fall asleep on the massage table, Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine tells Health Magazine.

Brain food

The same research institute found that even 15-minute chair massages left clients more alert.

"Subjects reported that it felt like a runner's high," Field said. Tests of the brain-wave activity of the subjects showed improved attention.

Beat a cold

Massage boosts the body's "natural killer cells," according to Field that are the first line of defense against an on-coming cold.

"Therefore, since massage decreases cortisol, your immune cells get a boost," she says.

Mood enhancer

More feel-good hormones mean less stress, anxiety and depression.

"Our studies have observed that massage decreases activity in the right lobe and increases functioning in the left," Field tells Health Magazine.

The immediate affects of massage is why some hospitals offer it to patients. It can even help reduce symptoms of PMS such as pain, water retention and mood swings, the article says.

WTOP's Veronica Robinson contributed to this report. Follow VRobWTOP, @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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