Massage may help protect against high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Some studies suggest that getting a massage may help calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for raising your blood pressure in response to stress. Although research on massage and blood pressure is fairly limited, there's some evidence that adding massage to your stress management may help keep your blood pressure in check.
A number of studies indicate that Swedish massage (a gentle, relaxing massage type) may be useful for lowering blood pressure. For instance, a 2006 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine tested the blood-pressure-lowering effects of several types of massage. Looking at readings taken before and after 150 study members received massage treatments, researchers found that Swedish massage reduced blood pressure while trigger point therapy and sports massage each raised blood pressure.
Some research indicates that aromatherapy massage may also help lower blood pressure. In a 2007 study from the International Journal of Neuroscience, for example, 58 women in menopause were assigned to either a control group or eight weekly aromatherapy massage sessions using lavender, rose geranium, rose, and jasmine essential oils. Study results suggest that aromatherapy massage may aid in blood pressure control.
In addition, a 2008 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that undergoing deep-tissue massage therapy while listening to soothing music may lead to a decrease in both blood pressure and heart rate.
Following a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking are all crucial for healthy blood pressure. While it's too soon to recommend massage therapy for blood pressure control, receiving massage on a regular basis may lessen your stress and—in turn—help protect against high blood pressure. For other stress management solutions, consider taking up yoga, meditation, or tai chi.
If you're interested in using massage to manage your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about incorporating massage into your health routine. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.