Did you know that one in three adults in America have high blood pressure, or hypertension? While the majority of those diagnosed with high blood pressure are 65 years or older, those under 65 are not immune. There are certain behaviors that increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, including smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet, and being overweight. While blood pressure normally increases in stressful situations, chronic stress seems to be even more of a contributing factor to developing high blood pressure. Depending on the severity of your hypertension, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes and/or prescribe medication to lower it. Even if you’re prescribed medication, lifestyle changes are still recommended to get the most benefit and get your body in control of your blood pressure instead of solely relying on the medication to do so.
The obvious first course of action is to take any of those high risk, contributing factors out of the picture. If you smoke, find a plan to help you work on quitting. If you drink excessively, work on decreasing your alcohol intake. Look for ways to increase your exercise habits and aim to eat healthier when possible. While these changes can take time to implement, small steps are better than no steps. If you stress yourself out in the process of making these changes it will defeat the purpose, so get help from your doctor and other medical providers when necessary to make these changes easier for long-term success.
The next line of defense that you can take is one that many wouldn’t expect. Massage! A study conducted at the Wirral Metropolitan College Department of Medicine in Liverpool, United Kingdom showed a significant decrease in blood pressure following massage. The study also showed a decrease in muscular tension and heart rate as a result of massage therapy. Another study published in the Journal of Body Work and Movement Therapies also asserts that hypertension and its associated symptoms were reduced with massage therapy. The subjects in this study were provided with 10 30-minute massage sessions over the course of five weeks. The subjects, all of whom suffered from hypertension, experienced reduced blood pressure, reduced feelings of depression, less hostile behavior, and reduced levels of cortisol in their urine and salivary samples. They concluded from this study that massage for hypertension may be beneficial to reduce blood pressure and lessen the symptoms associated with high blood pressure.
Regardless of how you and your doctor are working to treat your high blood pressure, adding regular massage therapy into your routine may be the answer. Before trying any form of treatment, you’ll need to consult with your doctor to take the proper channels to track your progress and ensure your body is handling any changes well.
¹ Delaney, J.P., Leong, K.S., Watkins, A., and Brodie, D., 2002, Wirral Metropolitan College Department of Medicine: The effects of myofascial trigger point massage therapy for people with hypertension
² Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Krasnegor, J., Theakston, H., Hossain, Z., and Burman, I., 2000, Journal of Body Work and Movement Therapies