When you think of massage therapy, the first thing that often comes to mind is its use as a tool for relaxation and stress-relief. Did you know that getting a massage not only helps you relax, but can also help boost your immune system as well?

Researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that people who received a 45-minute massage had an increased number of white blood cells (lymphocytes) that play a large roll in defending the body from diseases. The study consisted of 29 participants who received Swedish massage, and 24 who received light touching (control). Blood samples were collected at intervals before and after the massage session.

In addition, participants had lower levels of cytokines (molecules that play a role in inflammation), decreased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and vasopressin (a hormone that plays a role in aggressive behavior).

There have been a variety of other clinical studies that have indicated that regular massage therapy can naturally increase the body’s cytotoxic capacities (the activity level of the body’s natural “killer cells”), and decrease the number of T-cells, improving the immune functioning overall.

Aside from the specific studies, massage in general stimulates the lymphatic system, which can be particularly helpful for those who are weak or do not exercise regularly. Encouraging smooth lymph flow and improved circulation can be extremely beneficial to the immune system and the overall health of the body.

A single massage can help boost your immune system; with cold and flu season in full swing, and the stress of the holidays leaving you vulnerable, now is the time to book that massage and give your immune system a helping hand. However, it is important to keep in mind that one session may help for a small amount of time, but incorporating regular massage into your routine is what will help make the effects on your immune system last.