We hope we're not disappointing you when we say that there's no such thing as a magical fat-burning massage. However, the health benefits of massage therapy as a whole are well-documented, and there are plenty of indirect ways that the occasional massage could help keep your scale moving in the right direction!

A massage generally refers to the manual manipulation of soft body tissue, especially when performed for pain relief. Massages can last as few as ten minutes or as many as ninety, and most research finds that only twenty minutes of massage are needed to produce measurable benefits to your health and well-being.

Though some popular varieties of massage include Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, or shiatsu massage, there are over eighty known types to choose from and over 300,000 licensed massage therapists in the US.

One way that massage works is by activating your body's calming parasympathetic nervous system. This can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, reducing stress on the heart and putting your body into a relaxed state where it may be more able to heal.Massage has the potential to ease both the minor aches that arise from everyday life and those that result from illness or injury. Some experts attribute this effect to something called "gate signal theory," positing that "distracting" our skin's touch receptors with a sensation other than pain may stop our brains from registering that pain.

The pressure applied during a massage can also increase blood flow to the massaged area, allowing more healing nutrients to make their way there.

Meanwhile, a massage can also stimulate the lymph system to drain any excess fluid and toxins from the body part in question. This can reduce swelling and water retention, which may help you shed a little water weight.

For example, one study found that frequent lower limb massages were associated with reduced hip circumference and an improved quality of life. Some evidence also shows that massage can have at least a mild cellulite-reducing effect, though it is not likely to be permanent and will probably fade once treatments are discontinued.

Since scent can have a powerful effect on appetite, a massage that uses aromatherapy may also give you a weight loss leg up. One study found that aromatherapy massage in particular was associated with a significant reduction in weight, waist circumference, and appetite for recipients.

Some massages, particularly those focusing on the abdominal area, may also stimulate your digestive processes, which could help relieve constipation and gas.

If it does, you won't be losing any "real weight," but you may look and feel less bloated and see a small difference on the scale, which could get your morale going in the right direction.

Massage can also help counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle and work to re-engage deactivated muscles. This can improve your posture, leading to improved body composition and a higher metabolism as you build and strengthen muscles that you once neglected.

Massage is also a great choice for those who live a more active lifestyle. Studies show that massage immediately after exercise reduced delayed onset muscle soreness better than other recovery techniques like icing and stretching.

Athletes who received massages also experienced less swelling and inflammation. Plus, massage can help prevent injuries that could keep you out of the gym by helping your body stay strong and supple.

Massage has also been shown to decrease your levels of stress hormone cortisol while raising the levels of several feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters. These include serotonin, which can elevate mood and decrease cravings, dopamine, which is associated with improved motivation and focus, and oxytocin, which is associated with feelings of warmth and social bonding.

This may account for massage's documented ability to improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can up your chances of successful weight loss by removing or decreasing emotional obstacles that may have been impeding your progress or allowing you to reduce your doses of pain medication or antidepressants that could be contributing to an increased body weight.

Additionally, massage therapy has been associated with better sleep, which has plenty of its own benefits for weight loss, mental health, and energy levels. Massage has also been found to fight fatigue even among cancer patients, so maybe it can give you the energy to make it through that tough workout or dedicate more time to meal planning!

Finally, massages can also revitalize your immune system by increasing your body's concentration of disease-fighting white blood cells while lowering your levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Even if you're not yet comfortable with your weight, you shouldn't let it stop you from exploring the world of massage. Most massage therapists are used to clients of all shapes and sizes, and the experience of being touched in a way that feels caring may help you see yourself in a kinder or more balanced way.

Massage may also help you connect with your body, which could make you more aware and mindful of the kinds of healthy foods that will actually make you feel good. These improved attitudes towards your body and yourself can make living a healthier lifestyle feel more like self-care and less like self-punishment.

Getting a massage could also be a calorie-free reward for hitting a weight loss goal that feels about as good as a chocolate shake tastes! Celebrating your progress is important to staying motivated, and it can help affirm your commitment to creating a new you.

Though serious adverse effects from massage therapy are rare, you should probably make your massage therapist aware of any serious health problems or if you are pregnant.

To keep your benefits current, experts recommend seeing a massage therapist at least once a month, or, if you have the time and the money for it, as frequently as once a week!

If you can't afford or aren't in the mood for a professional massage, you'll be happy to learn that you can get a lot of the same benefits from self-massage: for example, working out your muscle kinks with foam rollers. Or, if you're in the mood for a little more fun, you and your partner could take turns performing massages on each other!
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