High blood pressure raises the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. To help control blood pressure, it is important to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors, including quitting smoking, eating a diet low in fat, salt and cholesterol and getting regular exercise. Finding ways to manage stress is also important, and complementary therapies such as massage may help. The first step is to speak with a health-care provider to make sure that massage is safe, based on personal health.
Blood pressure measures the force that blood places against the blood vessel walls as it is pumped through the body. It is recorded as a fraction, and the top number, or systolic pressure, measures the force created as the heart pumps. The bottom number, or diastolic pressure, measures the force created when the heart is between beats. If the arteries become hard or narrow due to plaque buildup, the blood will have to squeeze through a smaller area, which will create more force against the blood vessel walls. If the body retains fluid due to too much salt intake or an underlying disease, this extra fluid can also increase the pressure inside the arteries. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, once blood pressure reaches more than 120/80 mmHg, steps need to be taken to lower it.
While there is no scientific evidence linking stress directly to higher blood pressure, it is still important to learn to manage it. Stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, overeating and not exercising, all of which are known to raise the risk of high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. To fully manage high blood pressure, it is important to find time to relax, and this is where getting a massage may help.
Massage can involve many types of hands-on techniques that press, rub, squeeze and stretch the muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissues in the body. Massage can be deep or gentle. Getting a massage can lead to feelings of being cared for and taking charge of your health. Massage is relaxing to receive and can lower stress levels. For some patients, as stress levels go down, so does blood pressure, according to MayoClinic.com. In addition, massage can help to improve circulation, which may reduce any swelling or edema that is occurring alongside the high blood pressure. While much more research is needed to understand how massage effects blood pressure, it appears to help some patients when used as part of an overall plan.
Since massage can affect circulation, patients with high blood pressure or any kind of heart disease, should always check with a physician first. Massage should be avoided if blood clots are present or there is a risk of internal bleeding. Massage should never cause pain or increase symptoms. For the best results, talk to the therapist before and during the session if there are any concerns or something does not feel right.