Why Do Massages Feel Good?

It’s no secret that massages feel good, but have you ever wondered why they are so relaxing?

Research shows that massage triggers a set of biological processes that relieve mental and physical stress. It is a truly holistic treatment that improves both physical and emotional functioning.

Specifically, massage treatments feel amazing for the following reasons:

1. Massage triggers serotonin and dopamine release: According to therapist Suzanne Schaper, the brain releases these two hormones during massage. Serotonin and dopamine are sometimes referred to as “happy hormones,” as they reduce stress and improve mood.

Low serotonin levels are linked to depression. This means that massage may be useful as part of a holistic approach to managing mental health.

2. Massage reduces levels of cortisol in the body: When we are under pressure, our bodies release cortisol. Known as “the stress hormone,” cortisol contributes to feelings of anxiety and fear.

Therefore, by reducing cortisol levels, massage can help you feel calmer within minutes. It also promotes restful sleep, which is why massage is a good treatment for insomnia. High levels of cortisol are implicated in serious conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Regular massage treatments can keep them under control.

3. Massage stimulates vagal activity: Researcher Tiffany Field explains that massage therapy works via stimulation of the vagus nerve. This nerve, which controls many bodily functions from heart rate to digestion, is highly sensitive to touch.

When the vagus nerve is stimulated via skin receptors, heart rate decreases, blood pressure drops, and cortisol production slows down. The body becomes primed for relaxation and sleep, which explains why some people doze off during treatment.

4. Massage fulfills our basic human need for touch, and stimulates release of oxytocin: As infants, we relied on nurturing touch from our caregivers to survive. As a species, we have evolved to seek out and enjoy physical contact with others. Research shows that hugging, touching, or even just sitting close to someone prompts our bodies to release oxytocin.

Because oxytocin has an immediate and positive effect on mood, it is normal to crave physical touch. Although clients do not have close personal relationships with their massage therapists, the direct skin contact is still beneficial.

People with a history of childhood trauma may not have benefitted from loving touch as children. In some cases, they may even have come to associate physical contact with suffering. Massage therapy can help them form a healthier relationship to touch.

Whether you have a particular condition or just need to unwind, massage is scientifically proven to boost your general wellbeing. Why not nurture your body and mind by booking a session today?


Carmen is an entrepreneur and content marketer. In a former life, as a corporate business executive, she relied on yoga, reflexology and other alternative practices to fight stress, anxiety and find balance. She’s on a mission to build healthy habits for a balanced, healthy life, connecting body, mind and spirit.