The Concept: Besides being blissfully relaxing, this ancient healing art -- which dates back more than 3,000 years -- is said to increase your brain’s production of powerful painkillers called endorphins, explains Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of University of Miami Medical School’s Touch Research Institute (TRI). “Plus it improves circulation, strengthens immunity, and speeds repair of damaged tissues.”
The Benefits: According to TRI research, most pain conditions -- including osteoarthritis, neck and shoulder pain, and even debilitating headaches -- respond well to weekly massages, with pain scores dropping as much as 53 percent. Follow-up TRI studies suggest weekly massages also help ease depression by triggering a 30 percent increase in the brain’s production of mood-boosting serotonin. Regular massages can also help insomniacs get up to 60 more minutes of shuteye nightly, reports a study at Little Rock’s University of Arkansas College of Nursing. The Benefits: You’ll lie face down on a comfortable, padded table, with sheets draped over your body. The massage therapist will start with broad, flowing strokes to ease muscle tension -- then the pressure will gradually be increased to target specific areas needing TLC. Sessions generally last one hour, and the average cost nationwide is $60 (which may be covered by insurance), say University of Minnesota researchers.