Can massage help reduce high blood pressure?

Paul Adamson
July 29, 2017

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the silent killer because it has few symptoms but increases the risk of heart disease and strokes. It’s always good to get your blood pressure read fairly regularly. A reading above 140/90mm Hg is considered high. 140mm Hg is the force with which the heart pumps the blood into the arteries, and 90mm Hg is the force with which the blood travels in between beats or when the heart is at rest.

Having just had a client with constantly high blood pressure, I took some time to research the effects of massage on hypertension.  Years ago high blood presure was seen as a contraindication for massage as it was thought to increase the pressure exerted against the walls of the blood vessels. But there is plenty of research showing evidence to the contrary and that massage can actually reduce blood pressure. The theory is that massage stimulates receptors that send messages of relaxation to the central nervous system. These reflexes cause vasodilation, or widening of the blood vessels, resulting in decreased blood pressure and heart rate. 

Of course, I would never tell anyone with high blood pressure that all they need do is have lots of massage – spending too much money can increase blood pressure! But alongside other standard hypertension treatment – reducing salt intake, eating more fruit and vegetables, reducing alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, increasing exercise and reducing stress – it looks like massage can help you reduce high blood pressure.  

 

For those who want to read more about the possible benefits of massage in blood pressure, see:

Mohebbi Z, Moghadasi M, Homayouni K, Nikou MH. The effect of back massage on blood pressure in the patients with primary hypertension in 2012-2013: a randomized clinical trial. Int J Community Based Nurs Midwifery. 2014 Oct;2(4):251-8.

Mahshid Givi. Durability of Effect of Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure. Int J Prev Med. 2013 May; 4(5): 511–516.

Izreen Supa'at, Zaiton Zakaria, Oteh Maskon, Amilia Aminuddin and Nor Anita Megat Mohd Nordin. Effects of Swedish Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure, Heart Rate, and Inflammatory Markers in Hypertensive Women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 171852.

 

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