New research: massage boosts the immune system

We all know massage does us good, don’t we?  It helps us recover from and prepare for physical exertion, it can calm us down, rev us up, soothe pain and just make us feel good.  It’s recommended therapy for many conditions, not just musculo-skeletal aches and pains.  In fact I wonder whether its reputation as a wonder treatment makes sceptics think it’s all a bit emperor’s new clothes.

So it was good to see an item on the recent series of BBC2’s Trust me I’m a doctor exploring some new research that might shed light on why massage is so effective for so many conditions.

Biochemical pharmacologist Dr Fulvio D’Acquisto from Roehampton University had found that massage boosted white blood cell (WBC) count in HIV patients.  WBCs are important components of our immune system, helping to protect us from infection and heal damaged tissues.  Higher WBC count is useful for HIV patients so the Trust Me item investigated whether massage boosted WBC in healthy people.  It did – by 70%.  It seems that nerves that govern production of WBCs lie in the skin and are stimulated during massage.

Whether a higher WBC count is useful in an otherwise healthy person is not known. But if we’re needing to heal and repair, this research suggests that a massage might help things along.

We’ve known that all along, haven’t we?!