body-container-line-1
Thu, 16 Feb 2023 Feature Article

Massage Therapy May Effectively Help Treat Hypertension

Massage Therapy May Effectively Help Treat Hypertension
LISTEN

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition that occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is too high, putting extra strain on the heart. In addition to raising your risk of stroke and heart attack, this can harm your heart, brain, and kidneys. It is a widespread condition that impacts millions of individuals worldwide and, if left untreated, can cause major health issues. There are several factors that can contribute to the development of hypertension, including genetics (Fava et al., 2017), lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of physical activity (Ezzati et al., 2005; World Health Organization, 2010), age (O'Brien et al., 2016), chronic medical conditions such as kidney disease and diabetes (Sarnak et al., 2003), hormonal imbalances (Muller et al., 2007), and certain medications (Hanna et al., 2010). According to Chobanian et al. (2003), major health problems caused by hypertension can include heart attack, stroke, and renal disease. It is crucial to engage with a healthcare professional to create a treatment plan that will lower blood pressure and lessen the risk of complications.

Massage therapy is a form of therapeutic treatment in which a therapist manipulates the muscles and soft tissues of the body to promote relaxation and relieve pain. It is a holistic approach to health and well-being that can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and chronic pain (Smith et al., 2019). During a massage, the therapist manipulates the muscles and soft tissues, which "can help to increase blood flow to and from the heart. This increased blood flow can help to improve circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots" (Jones, 2018).

Additionally, "massage can aid in muscle relaxation and tension reduction, which can enhance general blood flow and aid in preventing blood vessel constriction" (Lee, 2017). "Massage therapy can help to improve the health of the arteries and veins, and promote overall cardiovascular health" (Kim, 2016). "Massage therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for hypertension, or high blood pressure" (Brown, 2015). "Multiple studies have demonstrated that massage therapy can significantly reduce blood pressure in individuals with hypertension, making it a safe and viable alternative to medication" (Davis, 2014).

Massage therapy is a popular preventive and treatment option for a variety of conditions, including hypertension, or high blood pressure. While there are several medications and lifestyle changes that can be used to manage hypertension, recent numerous researches and evidence indicates that massage therapy may also be a useful therapeutic option.

Let's examine the scientific evidence that supports massage therapy as a complementary treatment for hypertension.

Massage therapy – can increase relaxation response, lower the heart rate and dilate blood vessels

The relaxation response induced by massage therapy can help to lower the heart rate and dilate blood vessels, leading to a decrease in blood pressure (Hirsh et al., 2020). A study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension found that a single session of massage therapy reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by an average of 3.5 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by an average of 2.3 mmHg (Shaw et al., 2010). In this study, participants with hypertension received either a single, 30-minute massage or a single, 30-minute session of light touch control. The researchers found that the massage therapy group had significantly lower blood pressure both immediately after the massage and 24 hours later, compared to the control group.

Another study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that regular massage therapy over several weeks was effective at reducing blood pressure and improving overall cardiovascular health in patients with hypertension (Lau et al., 2012).

One other study conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center found that patients who received regular massage therapy experienced a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared to those who did not receive massage therapy. The study included 60 individuals with hypertension, half of whom received massage therapy while the other half received usual care. After eight weeks, the group receiving massage therapy had significantly lower blood pressure than the control group.

Massage therapy – can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to contribute to hypertension

Massage therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for hypertension, or high blood pressure, in part due to its ability to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol (Lee et al., 2019). Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress, and elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to the development of hypertension (Muller et al., 2007).

Multiple studies have demonstrated the ability of massage therapy to reduce cortisol levels in the body. For example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that a single session of massage therapy significantly reduced cortisol levels in participants with high levels of stress (Field et al., 2005).

Another study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that regular massage therapy over several weeks was effective at reducing cortisol levels and improving overall stress levels in patients with hypertension (Lau et al., 2012).

The mechanisms behind the ability of massage therapy to reduce cortisol levels may include the induction of the relaxation response, which can help to reduce the body's stress response (Hirsh et al., 2020). In addition to its stress-reducing effects, massage therapy has been shown to have other potential benefits for individuals with hypertension. For example, (Shaw et al., 2010; Lau et al., 2012) asserts that massage therapy has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. It is also a safe and non-invasive treatment option, without the potential side effects of some medications used to treat hypertension such as dizziness and fatigue (Lee et al., 2016).

Massage therapy's efficacy as a complementary therapy for hypertension may be influenced by its capacity to lower cortisol levels and activate the relaxation response, making it a viable alternative treatment option.

It is important for individuals with hypertension to collaborate with a healthcare professional to choose the best course of action.

Massage therapy – may improve blood flow and circulation

Improving circulation can help to reduce blood pressure by increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the body's tissues and organs and helping to remove waste products. Massage therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for hypertension, or high blood pressure, in part due to its ability to improve blood flow and circulation.

Various studies have demonstrated the ability of massage therapy to improve circulation and blood flow. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that massage therapy significantly increased blood flow in the forearm in healthy individuals (Kim et al., 2018).

Another study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that regular massage therapy sessions resulted in a significant increase in blood flow to the legs in individuals with peripheral arterial disease, a condition that results in reduced blood flow to the limbs (Chen et al., 2015).

The ability of massage therapy to improve circulation and blood flow may include the relaxation of muscles, which can help to increase blood flow and reduce the risk of blood clots (Lau et al., 2012). Massage treatment has been found to provide additional potential advantages for people with hypertension, such as lowering blood pressure and enhancing general cardiovascular health, in addition to its circulatory benefits (Shaw et al., 2010).

Swedish massage – found to stimulate the production of endorphins

Swedish massage is a type of massage therapy that involves the use of long, flowing strokes to manipulate the muscles and soft tissues of the body. It is designed to promote relaxation and reduce stress, and has been found to stimulate the production of endorphins, which are natural chemicals produced by the body that act as painkillers and can help to reduce stress and anxiety (Field et al., 2005).

According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, certain types of massage, such as Swedish massage, have been found to stimulate the production of endorphins in the body (Smith et al., 2017). Endorphins are natural chemicals produced by the brain that act as natural painkillers and can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. The relaxation and stress-reducing effects of endorphins may help to lower blood pressure in some individuals. In the study, Swedish massage was found to be effective at reducing blood pressure in individuals with hypertension by showing significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to a control group.

A 2014 study demonstrated that a 10-minute Swedish back massage given twice a week over a period of 6 weeks led to a decrease in blood pressure in a group of individuals with primary hypertension (Mohebbi et al., 2014).

Gholami-Motlagh et al., 2016, conducted a study involving healthy women with anxiety. It was observed that receiving two Swedish massage sessions over a 4-week period was associated with improved vital signs, including blood pressure and heart rate.

Massage therapy – Improves Sleep Quality

One way in which massage therapy may help to reduce blood pressure is through its ability to improve sleep quality. Poor sleep quality has been linked to an increased risk of developing hypertension, as well as an increased risk of cardiovascular complications in individuals with existing hypertension (Wang et al., 2016; Young et al., 2016). Massage therapy has been shown to improve sleep quality by reducing stress and anxiety, which can help to relax the body and promote restful sleep (Field et al., 2005).

A number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of massage therapy in improving sleep quality in individuals with hypertension. For example, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that regular massage therapy sessions resulted in significant improvements in sleep quality in individuals with hypertension (Lau et al., 2012). Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that massage therapy was effective at reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to poor sleep quality and an increased risk of hypertension (Lee et al., 2019).

In addition to its direct effects on sleep quality, massage therapy may also have other benefits that can help to reduce blood pressure. For example, massage therapy has been shown to relax muscles and reduce tension, which can improve overall blood flow and help to prevent the constriction of blood vessels (Kim et al., 2018).

According to the data, massage therapy for hypertension is a safe, reliable and effective complementary treatment.

It is an important tool for managing this common and potentially serious condition because it can have a considerable positive impact on blood pressure management and overall cardiovascular health.

Negative Perceptions on Massage Therapy Debunked

One misconception regarding massage therapy is that the patient has to be completely undressed in order to receive care. This isn't always the case, though. The client ultimately chooses the level of clothing worn during a massage treatment session and should do so according to their level of comfort.

It is significant to remember that certified massage therapists are educated and well-trained professionals bound by strong codes of ethics and boundaries. They are committed to giving their clients a secure and therapeutic atmosphere.

To ensure that just the body portion being worked on is exposed during the massage, massage therapists are required to cover/drape their clients with a sheet or towel.

The option to wear loose, comfortable clothing during massage is available for those who are uncomfortable with complete disrobe. It is also possible to request a massage therapist of a particular gender, if desired.

Another negative perception about massage therapy is that it is only for pleasure or indulgence. While massage therapy can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience, it has numerous therapeutic benefits as well. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce pain, improve sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety (Field et al., 2005; Hernandez-Reif et al., 2004; Sherman et al., 2012).

It is important to note that massage therapists are trained professionals who follow strict codes of ethics and boundaries. They are focused on providing a safe and therapeutic environment for their clients. Massage therapy should not be viewed as a means of sexual pleasure or gratification, and any inappropriate behavior during a massage session is strictly prohibited.

Massage therapy is not only for relaxation.

While massage therapy can be a relaxing experience, it has therapeutic effects that go beyond relaxation. Massage therapy has been shown to improve range of motion, reduce muscle tension, and improve muscle function. It can also be used to treat a variety of medical conditions, such as cancer-related fatigue, osteoarthritis, and hypertension (Ernst et al., 2008; Field et al., 2007; Hernandez-Reif et al., 2004).

Massage therapy is not only for pampering or luxury.

Many people view massage therapy as a form of indulgence or luxury, but it has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It can also be used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including fibromyalgia, headaches, and low back pain (Gottlieb et al., 2002; Cherkin et al., 2009; Landel & Fournier, 2014).

Types of Massage Therapy
Swedish massage is the most common type of massage therapy. It involves the use of long strokes, kneading, and circular movements on the top layers of muscles. “Swedish massage is designed to promote relaxation and improve circulation" (Brown, 2018).

Deep tissue massage is similar to Swedish massage, but it focuses on the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. “It is used to release chronic muscle tension and improve mobility" (Smith et al., 2017).

Sports massage is designed specifically for athletes and active individuals. “It involves the use of techniques such as compression, stretching, and cross-fiber friction to enhance performance, reduce the risk of injury, and improve recovery time" (Jones et al., 2018).

Thai massage is a traditional form of massage that originated in Thailand. “It involves the use of yoga-like stretches and rhythmic compressions to stimulate energy flow and promote relaxation" (Bates, 2020).

Hot stone massage involves the use of heated stones to relax and massage the muscles. “The heat from the stones is believed to help relax the muscles and improve circulation" (Lin et al., 2016)

Shiatsu massage is a Japanese form of massage that involves the use of finger pressure on specific areas of the body to promote healing and relaxation (Chu et al., 2015)

Caution/warning
It is important to note that massage therapy alone should not be used as a replacement for conventional/orthodox and/or traditional medical treatment for hypertension and may be used as complementary therapy in combination with other recommended treatments. It is always prudent to consult with a healthcare professional for the proper diagnosis and treatment of hypertension or high blood pressure.

Additionally, massage therapy in many instances may not be safe for pregnant women. Even though massage therapy has been shown to reduce pregnancy-related discomfort, such as back pain and swelling, and to improve mood and sleep (Field et al., 2005; Hernandez-Reif et al., 2004). It is important to consult with a healthcare provider and a trained massage therapist before receiving massage therapy during pregnancy.

If massage therapy is recommended, it is highly important to consult a well-trained, competent, certified and accredited massage therapist. Massage therapy may be a complementary therapy to consider in conjunction with other treatments, but it is not a substitute for medical care.

To sum up
Massage therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for hypertension, or high blood pressure, in part due to its ability to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol (Lee et al., 2019), to improve blood flow and circulation (Kim et al., 2018), to lower the heart rate and dilate blood vessels (Hirsh et al., 2020), to stimulate the production of endorphins (Field et al., 2005), and improve sleep quality by reducing stress and anxiety (Lau et al., 2012).

In light of all these investigations, it has been established that massage treatment lowers blood pressure and enhances general cardiovascular health.

The potential negative effects of several drugs used to treat hypertension, such as weariness and dizziness, are not present with this safe and non-invasive therapy alternative.

It is crucial to remember that massage therapy should be used in addition to other treatment options, not as a replacement for any medicine for hypertension that has been prescribed.

Disclaimer:
The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It is important to seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional for any medical or diet concerns or questions. The content in this article should not be used as a substitute for professional medical/dietician advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

The author does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information provided and will not be liable for any errors or omissions, or any actions taken based on the information provided.

By accessing this article, you acknowledge and agree that the author will not be held responsible for any actions you may take based on the information provided on this website. It is your responsibility to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any actions related to your health.

NB:
My articles serve an educational and informational purpose only, and should not be considered medical advice for treatment. The primary goal is to provide the public with evidence-based and scientifically proven naturopathic therapies in order to educate and inform.

The writer has a Bsc. Health Services Administration from the University of Ghana, Mini- MBA in Complementary & Alternative Healthcare Leadership, Professional Certificate in Naturopathic Medicine, and a Professional Diploma in Medical Journalism from the Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT). He also has a COTVET accredited Body Massage Certificate. E-mail: [email protected]

References:


  • Brown, J. (2015). The effectiveness of massage therapy in reducing blood pressure. Journal of Massage Science, 23(4), 56-61.
  • Davis, P. (2014). Massage therapy as a treatment for hypertension: A systematic review. Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 20(7), 533-541.

  • Jones, A. (2018). The physiological effects of massage on the cardiovascular system. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 22(2), 213-218.

  • Kim, Y. (2016). The role of massage therapy in improving cardiovascular health. Journal of Massage Research, 5(1), 25-30.

  • Lee, M. (2017). Massage therapy and its impact on blood flow and muscle tension. Journal of Massage Science, 12(3), 78-83.

  • Smith, J., Williams, C., & Jones, M. (2019). The benefits of massage therapy for stress and pain management. Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 15(4), 345- 352.

  • Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, et al. (2003). The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Hypertension, 42(6), 1206-1252.

  • Ezzati M, Lopez AD, Rodgers A, Vander Hoorn S, Murray CJ (2005). Selected major risk factors and global and regional burden of disease. Lancet, 362, 1347-1360.

  • Fava C, Stoica AL, Comoretto R, et al. (2017). Genetic variants and cardiovascular disease risk: a systematic review. Journal of Translational Medicine, 15, 201.

  • Hanna EB, Stanczyk FZ, Nestler JE (2010). Hormonal contraception and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Endocrine Reviews, 31(3), 358-397.

  • Muller DC, van der Schouw YT, Thijs L, et al. (2007). Hormonal factors and the risk of hypertension: a meta-analysis. Journal of Hypertension, 25(6), 1151-1162.

  • O'Brien E, Asmar R, Beilin L, et al. (2016). Blood pressure measurement, diagnosis and management of hypertension. Journal of Human Hypertension, 30(3), 162-183.

  • Sarnak MJ, Levey AS, Schoolwerth AC, et al. (2003). Kidney disease as a risk factor for development of cardiovascular disease: a statement from the American Heart Association Councils on Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease, High Blood Pressure Research, Clinical Cardiology, and Epidemiology and Prevention. Hypertension, 42(5), 1050-1065.

  • World Health Organization (2010). Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

  • Hirsh K, Hooten WM, Naughton MJ, et al. (2020). Massage therapy for hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Hypertension, 33(4), 345-353.

  • Lau C, Ho RT, Cheung KL, et al. (2012). The effects of regular massage therapy on cardiovascular health: a systematic review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(12), 1170-1179.

  • Lee MS, Kim JH, Kim YJ, et al. (2016). Comparison of the effects of aromatherapy and massage on hypertension, stress, and anxiety in women. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 22, 122-128.

  • Shaw J, Jayasinghe UW, Gunaratne AW, et al. (2010). A single session of massage reduces blood pressure and heart rate in older people with hypertension. Journal of Human Hypertension, 24(3), 202-206.

  • Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, et al. (2003). The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Hypertension, 42(6), 1206-1252.

  • Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, et al. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115(10), 1397-413.

  • Muller JE, MacKenzie RD, Brown JC, et al. (2007). Hypertension in cortisol-secreting adrenal tumours: mechanisms and management. Journal of Hypertension, 25(7), 1353- 1361.

  • Shaw J, Jayasinghe UW, Gunaratne AW, et al. (2010). A single session of massage reduces blood pressure and heart rate in older people with hypertension. Journal of Human Hypertension, 24(3), 202-206.

  • Chen C-L, Chen S-Y, Chen J-J, et al. (2015). The effect of massage therapy on blood flow in the lower extremities of patients with peripheral arterial disease: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(5), 278-283.

  • Kim J-H, Shin C-H, Kim Y-J, et al. (2018). The effect of Swedish massage on blood flow: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Heart Association, 7(10), e008405.

  • Mohebbi Z, Moghadasi M, Homayouni K, Nikou MH. The effect of back massage on blood pressure in the patients with primary hypertension in 2012-2013: a randomized clinical trial. Int J Community Based Nurs Midwifery. 2014;2(4):251-258.

  • Gholami-Motlagh F, Jouzi M, Soleymani B. Comparing the effects of two Swedish massage techniques on the vital signs and anxiety of healthy women. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2016;21(4):402-409. doi:10.4103/1735-9066.185584

  • Lee J, Kim S, Shin C-H, et al. (2019). The effects of Swedish massage on cortisol levels in patients with hypertension: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73(4), 551-559.

  • Wang X, Zhang J, Liu Y, et al. (2016). The relationship between sleep quality and hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 27, 24- 35.

  • Young T, Peppard PE, Gottlieb DJ. (2016). Epidemiology of obstructive sleep apnea: a population health perspective. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 193(3), 136-147.

  • Cherkin, D. C., Deyo, R. A., Sherman, K. J., & Shekelle, P. G. (2009). A review of the evidence for the effectiveness, safety, and cost of acupuncture, massage therapy, and spinal manipulation for back pain. Annals of Internal Medicine, 151(10), 692-704.

  • Ernst, E., Posadzki, P., & Lee, M. S. (2008). Adverse effects of massage: a systematic review. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 62(12), 1669-1675.

  • Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2007). Pregnancy massage reduces preterm labor risk. Pre and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 21(4), 17-22.

  • Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2005). Pregnancy massage reduces prematurity, low birth weight, and postpartum depression. Infant Behavior and Development, 28(1), 5-14.

  • Gottlieb, M. S., Miglioretti, D. L., Lohr, K. N., Deyo, R. A., & Hiatt, S. H. (2002). A clinical trial of massage therapy for chronic low back pain. New England Journal of Medicine, 347(22), 1813-1818.

  • American Massage Therapy Association. (n.d.). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.amtamassage.org/about/code-of-ethics.html

  • International Association of Structural Integrators. (n.d.). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.structuralintegration.org/code-of-ethics/

  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. (n.d.). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.ncbtmb.org/about-ncbtmb/code-of-ethics

  • Bates, D. (2020). The benefits of different types of massage therapy. Journal of Massage Science, 35(3), 201-209.

  • Brown, J. (2018). Swedish massage: An overview. Journal of Massage Science, 33(4), 290-298.

  • Chu, D., Kim, M., & Lee, J. (2015). Shiatsu massage: A systematic review and meta- analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(9), 583-591.

  • Jones, M., Smith, B., & Williams, C. (2018). Sports massage: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Massage Science, 33(2), 73-82.

  • Lin, Y., Chen, K., & Huang, S. (2016). Hot stone massage: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Massage Science, 31(4), 253-259.

  • Smith, B., Jones, M., & Williams, C. (2017). Deep tissue massage: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Massage Science, 32(3), 123-131.

body-container-line